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Hickman Mills Schools to start program for children affected by trauma

“In just a few more months, many Hickman Mills students will have new fulltime counselors cheering them on.”

Hickman Mills Schools to start counseling program for children affected by trauma

By John Sharp

The BAM (Becoming A Man) and WOW (Working On Womanhood) counseling programs for 7th  through 12th graders in the Hickman Mills School District who may have been impacted by violence or other traumatic events are expected to begin serving students in February.

Youth Guidance, the Chicago-based non-profit organization that developed the programs and will operate them here, recently hired Garrett Webster, Sr., former Director of Admissions for the Kansas City Public Schools, as its Kansas City executive director, and the program is currently advertising for fulltime counselors.  Persons may apply by going online to and clicking on Careers.

Garrett M. Webster, Sr., former Director of Admissions for the Kansas City Public Schools, wil oversee new counseling programs at Hickman Mills School Distric

Webster said in an exclusive interview earlier this month that he hopes to have program personnel that reflect the population the programs will be serving hired by the end of this year so they can be trained in time to start working with students in February.  

He said the program is particularly interested in applicants who may have been impacted by trauma themselves as he was when growing up, sometimes sleeping with a metal pipe under his pillow so he could try to protect his mother from his alcoholic stepfather. 

Each program will have a counselor assigned to Smith-Hale Middle School and to Ruskin High School, and there will be an overall supervisor for the Hickman Mills programs.  Webster said school counselors, teachers and administrators will recruit students who they believe can benefit from the programs.  Students and their parents also may seek their inclusion.

He said counselors generally meet once a week with groups of 10-12 students, and they are available throughout the week for one-on-one meetings with students if requested by the students, upon staff referrals or whenever the counselors own assessments indicate such meetings are needed.  He said he expects these sessions to be virtual as they now are in school districts in other cities where the programs operate, at least to start, but the program will make contingency plans to be ready to switch to in-person meetings whenever in-person classes resume. 

Webster said he anticipates the programs serving about 145 Hickman Mills students this school year and about 210 next school year.

He said he hopes to develop partnerships between the programs and other youth-serving organizations in the Kansas City area and to recruit community leaders and activists to serve on an advisory council to provide input on BAM and WOW programming.  Organizations and persons interested in pursuing these opportunities should contact him at

Sarah Haberberger, the executive director of GreenLight Fund Kansas City, the nonprofit grant maker that secured the funding to bring the BAM and WOW programs to Kansas City, said her organization focuses on eliminating barriers to economic prosperity and selects programs to support that have proven evidence-based records of success such as BAM and WOW.

“In just a few more months, many Hickman Mills students will have new fulltime counselors cheering them on, and I look forward to expanding these proven programs to other school districts in the metropolitan area in the coming years,” she said at a virtual “meet and greet” for Webster.

She said Hickman Mills was picked for launching the programs in the area due to the strong support and enthusiasm for the programs expressed by District administrators.

The BAM program currently serves about 8,500 students in 140 schools in the Boston and Chicago areas and in King County, Washington (the Seattle area), and Los Angeles County, California, according to the Youth Guidance website.  The website says the program emphasizes six core values – accountability, integrity, positive anger expression, respect for womanhood, self-determination and visionary goal-setting.

It notes there have been significant decreases in violent crimes and overall arrests for participants and a significant increase in on-time high school graduations.

WOW serves about 2,500 students in 40 schools in the Chicago metropolitan area.  It has five core values according to the website – emotional intelligence, healthy relationships, leadership, self-awareness and visionary goal-setting.

The website says a majority of the participants experienced fewer symptoms of post-traumatic sress disorder, and nearly all reported that the program helped them make better decisions for themselves.

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