‘They're Sad. They're Shocked.': San Diego School Supports Students With Family in Ukraine

Ten to 15 students, that administration knows of, at Canyon Crest Academy in Pacific Highlands Ranch have loved ones in Ukraine, according to their principal.

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Canyon Crest Academy may be thousands of miles away from where Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine, but headlines and images coming from the region are hitting home with students.

Around a dozen students, that administration knows of, at the Pacific Highlands Ranch school have loved ones in war-impacted areas of Ukraine, according to CCA Principal Brett Killeen.

"They’re sad. They’re shocked. They’re worried. There’s anxiety," said Killeen. "And those are the students who actually have family there."

Not only is there concern for students with personal ties to the area, but Killeen also recognizes the need to keep local military families in mind.

"We also have families with military backgrounds and we don’t know yet where they may be deployed," said Killeen. "There’s a ripple effect here."

As an educator and a parent, Killeen knows this is a critical time for the school to provide resources for the community through what they call social-emotional support, as well as academic support.

“It’s going to manifest in different ways and we need to be flexible and supportive,” said Killeen.

Social-emotional support can take on a variety of meanings on campus. Some students may just need the time and space to be by themselves, while others might prefer to have a conversation with a counselor or facilitator.

“You know, if they have to leave a class to come down and talk to a counselor, that’s totally OK,” added Killeen.

As for the academic support, Killeen said there has been conversation in history classes about what is happening and students are learning to look through a historical lens. On top of this, faculty are also stressing the importance of identifying and avoiding misinformation. Killeen acknowledged it can be overwhelming when the students are bombarded with content every hour of every day.

"I’m not an expert and we’re all experiencing this at the same time, but I think it is our job as educators and parents and community members to make sure that we’re being honest, straight-forward, factual and creating a safe space for our students so that they at least can relieve some of that stress," said Killeen.

Killeen added that on top of a tier system that allows CCA to be able to respond to crises, the San Diego County Office of Education also released a public resources page specifically dedicated to helping educators and families approach safe, healthy conversation about what is happening in Ukraine. According to the SDCOE webpage, the toolkit was posted the same day of the initial invasion. Killeen said it was shared with all of the districts in the county, and it has been helpful.

“It’s impactful for all of us unless you’re over the age of 80 when there was last an invasion like this on this scale,” said Killeen. "It’s scary. These resources help us to do a better job of meeting [the student’s] needs."

All of this is on top of the stress and challenges students were already feeling because of the pandemic, which has impacted nearly every aspect of their lives, especially in classrooms.

"You think about the formative years of these students’ lives and there’s a lot going on in our world that they’ve grown up with,” said Killeen.

Despite all that, these students have gone through and continue to go through, Killeen is inspired by them every step of the way.

“I’m encouraged every day by the innovation, the talent, the creativity, the passion of these young people, which gives me a lot of hope for the future," said Killeen.

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