Meeting The Needs Of The Whole Student

Barranca 6th graders in small groups on a field trip Oct. 3 to the Youth Activity Center. Courtesy photo

Barranca 6th grade students participate in small groups on an Oct. 3 field trip to provide an intensive, half-day bonding experience at the Youth Activity Center. 


Barranca Mesa Elementary School teachers Mrs. McGrane and Mrs. Juliani, have been working for the last six years to address the needs of the whole student in 5th and 6th grade. 

Students at this level begin to feel immense stress and pressure to achieve and succeed.  Some of this pressure comes from parents, teachers and others, but a lot of it they put on themselves.

This also is a time when social issues begin arising, self doubt creeps in, and students are trying to start figuring out who they really are and what is important to them. 

The program has evolved over the years into what is now called Barranca’s Youth Empowerment Program. They feel this name fits because they are working towards helping 5th and 6th graders become empowered as learners and individuals.

Each year McGrane and Juliani implement opportunities for students to build life skills that will help them manage these issues and be more confident as they move towards adulthood. This year, with the help of Mrs. Trujillo, they are taking 6th graders in small groups on field trips to provide an intensive, half-day bonding experience at the Youth Activity Center. 

Their first trip of the school year was Oct. 3 and focused on “Achievement & Stress”. They had some deep conversations about stress, knowing limits, focusing on what is controllable, learning from failure, and accepting help from others. These discussions were broken up by activities that were both fun and a learning opportunity. 

Students learned first hand how to use techniques, think about failure as an opportunity to restart with a better plan, and frame experiences in a positive forgiving light. Students also were provided with tokens/gifts that they kept to remind them of the day’s activities and lessons. 

“We want to plant seeds that grow and help students get through tough times when they need it. Sometimes we don’t know our impact until years later,” McGrane said. “Academics are vital but if we don’t help students handle some of these other issues, they aren’t able to fully grow and succeed in the classroom.

They have to know we “see” them,” Juliani said. 

After the workshop, students reflected on the day and gave feedback to their teachers. Here are a few student comments:

“I learned that I’m not useless and I need more faith and friends. Also, I learned to cooperate with other people better.” –male student

“I learned that failing makes you stronger and when you fail, you just have to accept that fact. I will use this in the future by always remembering these facts especially when things are hard.” –female student

“I really liked the activities. I feel that everyone was open and honest. This experience got a lot of things that have been weighing on me off my chest.” –male student  

“I want to say that I liked it, and it made me more confident. It gave me a chance for teamwork and opening up. I really liked the talks we had.” –female student

McGrane, Juliani and Trujillo would like to thank the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) for the continued support of their program and work with youth at Barranca Mesa Elementary. They also would like to thank their Principal Gina Terrazas, who has been a strong supporter and also believes in the work they do. It is because of their support that they feel able to make a real impact in the lives of students.