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The Highpoint East School of Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) is an Academic and Behavior School which serves the adjudicated or expelled youth population in grades 6-12. The students of Highpoint East are given a second chance at success and are encouraged and prepared to successfully exit the program. By offering low student-to-teacher ratios and providing a safe environment, students are given the skills needed to succeed in academic and social settings. The HCDE Highpoint East program gives students the opportunity to address behavioral concerns, emotional hardships, and/or developmental disabilities.
Students are encouraged to make better choices daily with the hope to return them to their original schools and eventually graduate. The program is achieved by providing a structured discipline philosophy as well as positive reinforcement techniques. (Harris County Department of Education, 2020).
As a school social work intern at Highpoint East, many responsibilities and duties were performed at the Micro, Mezzo, and Macro level. In order to deliver successful outcomes and promote social justice for the students, families, and communities, all levels were crucial when performing field tasks.
When reflecting at the micro level perspective, daily duties included engaging with students, families, and staff while emphasizing interpersonal and empathy skills. Assisting our transitional specialists during weekly orientations allowed me to work closely with students’ families, as well as recognize diversity and self-awareness. While supporting small student discussion groups and one-on-one social support, we focused on good decision making versus bad, anger management, and positive peer/teacher relationships.
It was also vital to work in partnership with our school counselor to help counsel students experiencing anxiety, bullying, depression, family issues and other social challenges. By recognizing the central importance of human relationships, direct interaction with clients was essential in order to address individual problems.
While the mezzo level of social work practice focuses on medium sized systems, the occurrence of community partnership and community educators was vital at Highpoint East. I helped create speaker series that addressed social injustice matters and developed student activities that supported additional learning. The speaker series helped promote a deeper understanding of issues and the student’s abilities to advocate for themselves and their community. The topics of college preparation, substance abuse prevention, and sexual harassment were highly discussed and presented by residents from the community which had experienced similar issues as the students. A list of community resources was also made available for parents and students to support any issues or needs that may have arose. Working alongside with the transitional specialists was an important role in order to connect students to available campus resources and decrease recidivism at Highpoint East.
From the macro level perspective, responsibilities included the evaluation of programs on campus as well advocating for policy change in the criminal justice system to prevent youth incarceration. Surveys were developed to measure events and school program outcomes and eventually advocated for improved policies. For example, students at Highpoint East had a high response for an increase in substance abuse counseling as well as a change in the Highpoint discipline management system, also known as the Love and Logic program. As a social work intern, I took the responsibility in advocating and engaging in policy practice by sharing my findings with superintendents, teachers, and staff members in order to meet the needs of my clients.
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