Middle Matters

Week of June 5, 2023

In This Issue

Highlights from this week's Middle Matters:

  • Important Upcoming Dates
  • SY22-23 School Calendar
  • 8th Grade Graduation Pick Up of Cap/Gown, 8th Grade T-shirt, yearbook, graduation tickets and Chromebook Collection
  • 8th Grade Graduation Logistics
  • Lost & Found
  • Kona Ice
  • PRIDE Month Celebration
  • Adopt-A-Garden Program at Brooks
  • GBMS Yearbook Purchasing Details
  • Returning Students School Registration - opens May 26th
  • Kindergarten and New Student Registration Open
  • Clubs and Sports Information (updated weekly)
  • BRAVO Information (updated weekly)
  • Student Announcements (updated weekly)

Highlights from GBMS PTO and District

  • PTO Standing Communications: RAISE PTO FUNDRAISER, PTO Angel Funds, PTO Gift Card Fundraiser
  • District News

Repeated Topics in Middle Matters for your Reference
  • GBMS Athletics
  • Allergy Safe School Information - No Nuts (Repeat)
  • Stay Home When Sick (Repeat)
  • Process for Reporting Positive COVID-19 Cases to D97 Schools (Repeat)
  • How to Report Student Absences (Repeat)
  • Office Phones and Dropping off Items at Brooks (Repeat)
  • School Day (Bell Schedule and A/B/C rotation) (Repeat)
  • Cell Phone/Mobile Devices Away for the Day (Repeat)
  • Tardies to Class (Repeat)
  • Water Bottle Reminders (Repeat)
  • School Physical and Immunization Information (Repeat)
  • Tech Support

Community Partner News

  • Friday Night Place Oak Park SMART Kids College Summer Program
  • YEMBA Hiring for Summer
  • YEMBA Summer Empowerment program for Incoming High School Freshman
  • Your Passion 1st @OPPL - Wednesdays 4 to 5:30pm
  • Glenbard Parent Series (GPS): Navigating Healthy Families
  • Leyden Family Services

If you have questions about the upcoming school year, please don’t hesitate to contact me at acapuder@op97.org. You can also contact my Executive Coordinator, Ms. Angel Banks, at abanks1@op97.org or (708) 524-7636.

Our administrative team is also available to help answer your questions.

Angelica Love Curriculum & Instruction AP (6th grade, 7th grade) alove@op97.org

Denise Fernandez Curriculum & Instruction AP (8th grade, multineeds) dfernandez@op97.org

Stacie Klein Culture & Climate AP sklein@op97.org


Monday - A Day; Tuesday - B Day; Wednesday - C Day, Thursday - A day and Friday - B Day
  • 6/7: 8th Grade Great America Trip; 7th Grade Oak Park City Chase; 6th Grade Ridgeland Commons

  • 6/8: 8th Grade Graduation 6:30pm at Oak Park River Forest High School Auditorium (last day of 8th Grade Student Attendance)

  • 6/9: Last Day of School for 6th and 7th Graders

8th Grade ONLY Information

Graduation Pick Up of Cap/Gown, 8th Grade T-shirt, yearbook, graduation tickets and Chromebook Collection

Chromebook/Charger Collection and Graduation Items Distribution

On either Monday, June 5th (A Day) or Tuesday, June 6th (B day), when your student has PE/Health Class the following will be collected and distributed:

  • Chromebook and Charger will be collected
  • 8th Grade t-shirt (if ordered)
  • Yearbook (if ordered)
  • Cap, Gown, Tassel (if ordered)
  • Graduation Tickets for the Ceremony on Thursday, June 8th (4 tickets per graduate will be provided). If the graduate will not be attending the graduation ceremony, please complete this form by Monday, June 5th. The ceremony will also be live streamed to enable it be viewed from any location.

Graduation Logistics

**8th Grade Graduation Logistics with Diagrams was emailed separately**

Below are the highlights:

Rehearsal: Thursday, June 8th, 8th Grade students will leave at 9:45am on bus to OPRFHS. We will return approximately 11:30am for students to attend the remainder of their classes.

Graduation: Thursday, June 8th at 6:30 pm held at Oak Park River Forest High School Auditorium. Families/guests will use door 5, door 4 for ADA accessibility, and graduates will use door 3 (Driver’s Ed door)

Tickets: Each graduate will receive four tickets to attend the in-person graduation

Live Streaming: Brooks Graduation will be https://www.youtube.com/live/O3ufklD--p0 at 6:30 pm on Thursday, June 8th

Graduate Attire: If purchased, Cap and Gown; otherwise dress attire

Parking: see emailed or linked above graduation logistic with diagrams.


  • Please help graduates arrive on time by 6:00 pm @ door 3

  • Each guest, regardless of age, must have a ticket to enter the building/auditorium.

  • Parents/Guardians/Guests can enter the building at 6:00 pm @ door 5, and door 4 for ADA accommodations.

  • Parents/Guardians/Students may NOT bring any balloons, streamers, noisemakers, or food into the building/auditorium.

  • Photos before or after the ceremony can be taken outside, not inside the building.


As the year comes to a close we would like to remind our families that the Lost & Found has several unclaimed items. Please remind your child to stop the Commons and see if they can claim any of the items that have been left behind.

Here's a picture of our current Lost & Found Collection.

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KONA ICE - Best Buddies Fundraiser

On Friday, June 9th the Kona Ice Truck will be on campus during the 6th & 7th grade lunch periods, as 8th graders will have graduated. The link has been provided for pre-payments, using event code: F0061950. See flyer below. As an added bonus 20% of the proceeds will be donated to the Best Buddies Program.

Here is the link to the allergen info: https://www.kona-ice.com/pdf/allergen_ingredients.pdf

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GBMS 22-23 Yearbook purchasing details

It's time to purchase your GBMS 2022-2023 Yearbook! The cost is $26.02. Use the purchase link below to get started. You can also use your TreeRing account to share photos with our Yearbook Team throughout the year as well as design your very own custom pages (first two pages are free). If you have any questions regarding the yearbook, please contact Meaghan Pabellon at mpabellon@op97.org.

Purchase Link: https://tr5.treering.com/validate

GBMS Passcode: 1014096931934358

Families who purchase now through the end of the year will have the yearbooks delivered to homes, which requires a shipping fee.


A big thank you to everyone who donated, volunteered, and supported anything PTO related this year. We had a new team, tried a lot of new ideas and had fun along the way. Check out our highlights! We look forward to building on our community with you next school year!
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District Program Information

Registration for Returning Students Opens Friday, May 26

Online registration for the 2023-24 school year in District 97 will officially launch for returning students on Friday, May 26! This year, the registration window will be open May 26 through July 1 for returning students. Please see below for details. Information is also available on the district website at https://www.op97.org/hr/student-registration.

Returning Students

The parent/guardian listed as PG1 in PowerSchool will receive an email from infosnap@is.op97.org with their student’s snapcode and instructions to register. Emails will be sent on Friday, May 26, 2023.

Complete details can be found at https://www.op97.org/hr/returning-student-registration.

New Students and Kindergarteners

Registration for kindergarten and new students opened May 5 and will be open through July 1. Please click the links below to learn more about the registration process for kindergarteners and new students.

We appreciate your partnership in preparing for a successful 2023-24 school year!


There are still spots available for early childhood blended classrooms at Whittier Elementary School for the 2023-24 school year! The deadline for applications has been extended to June 9, 2023.

District 97 is seeking students who:

  • are non-IEP students who will be between the ages of 3 and 4 years by Sept. 1, 2023;

  • demonstrate age-appropriate language and social skills;

  • are Oak Park residents;

  • are not enrolled in a preschool program.

For more information about the Early Childhood Blended Program or to apply, please visit https://www.op97.org/teach-learn/ecblended.


Thanks for Participating in Clubs and Sports

Thanks to all of our students who participated in Clubs and Sports this school year! Have a great summer.
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Student Announcements

Students can find announcements in each Student's Lunch (Green) or Lunch (Yellow) course in Canvas as well as on a button along the left side of our Brooks homepage.

PTO Standing Communications


Join Raise Right PTO Fundraiser

If you haven't already, please accept this invite to join the PTO Raise Right Fundraiser. This is an all-year-round fundraiser to raise extra funds through your daily purchases. It's SO easy! Use Brooks PTO Enrollment Code: 71Z7LFLAMVH7 and either purchase e-gift cards (received and ready to use within seconds) or ship directly to you (takes 1-2 weeks). Note: Do NOT ship to the coordinator. Here is a "how to" video.


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Starting with your holiday shopping - by using RiaseRight gift cards for all your everyday purchases! We are currently raising money to help provide scholarships for the 8th grade Washington DC trip and to fund monthly cultural celebrations and other initiatives for the school community for the rest of the year.

The RightRaise gift card fundraiser is super easy...simply go to https://www.raiseright.com/ and create an account or download the app. Use our enrollment code 71Z7LFLAMVH7 and purchase gift cards to give as gifts or to use for your everyday shopping. You can also share the link and enrollment code with your friends or family who want to support Brooks.

There are hundreds of stores to choose from - places like Target, Whole Foods, Ulta, Bath & Body Works, LL Bean, Old Navy, Crate & Barrel, Starbucks, Amazon, BP, Chipotle, etc. Even Airbnb and several airlines!

Electronic gift cards are recommended b/c you can pay for them online and receive them within seconds. They arrive so quickly that you can purchase them while you are in line at the grocery store and use them to check out. You can even purchase reloadable gift cards for the gift that keeps giving all year long...think gas, coffee, clothes, pizza... the possibilities are (almost) endless!

When ordering gift cards please pay for them online or through the app and DO NOT select the option to pay the coordinator. Please note that while it is too late to receive physical gift cards before winter break, e-gift cards are received immediately and there is an option for physical gift cards to be shipped directly to your home for future gift giving. Physical gift cards delivered to Brooks will be distributed and available for pick up once or twice monthly.

The PTO can't exist without YOU!

Do you want to have the inside scoop on what is going on at Brooks and D97? Do you want to make our school better than it ever as we transition back to a more ‘normal’ school day? NOW is the time to get involved!! We are looking to fill positions for the 2021-2022 school year and have some critical roles open! Sign up here and email gwendolynbrookspto@gmail.com with any questions! We look forward to hearing from you!

Connect with the Brook’s PTO

Please ensure you are a part of the Facebook gbms PTO group. Email gwendolynbrookspto@gmail.com with any questions.

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2022 - 2023 District News and Information

Emergency Closings and E-Learning Days
District 97 always strives to have schools open. However, if heavy snow or extreme cold make it dangerous to travel, we may need to close schools. The district’s emergency closing procedures are outlined at https://www.op97.org/communications/emergency-closings.

In July 2021, the District 97 Board of Education approved an E-Learning Plan for students to receive instruction electronically in lieu of traditional emergency days (or inclement weather days). This means that instead of canceling school, the superintendent now has the option of calling an “E-Learning Day” where students and staff learn and work virtually at home. This provides a continuation of learning and prevents the loss of critical instructional days, particularly in our first and second trimesters.

If the superintendent decides to close buildings and hold an E-Learning Day, the information is shared through multiple channels, including email, the district website, our Facebook and Twitter social media pages, and the Emergency Closings website. Staff and families are also encouraged to OPT IN to text messages from the district by texting YES to 87569.

D97 Back-to-School Information

As a reminder, we have created a central location for important back-to-school updates and documents: https://www.op97.org/back-to-school.

The district’s COVID-19 Health Safety Plan is linked below and can also be found, along with other COVID-19 resources and information, by going to https://www.op97.org/updatecenter.

Mitigation Change: Effective Sept. 30, District 97 will no longer require masks for indoor events or field trips. Masks will continue to be required in the school nurses' offices. Please visit the district website for complete details about our current health and safety protocols.

Combined Student and Family Handbook for 2022-23

This year, the district worked to merge the Effective Student Behavior Handbook and Family Handbook into one comprehensive resource, the Student and Family Handbook, in order to streamline information for families and staff. The new handbook contains important information regarding school policies, procedures, student rights and responsibilities, and important notifications required by state and federal law.

The purpose of this handbook is to outline the expectations for building an educational community where everyone feels safe, included and able to learn. Having shared expectations, procedures and policies helps us respect all members of the school community in which we learn and work every day. Please take the time to read through the handbook and review it with your child.

Meal Information for the 2022-23 School Year

The breakfast and lunch menus for our elementary and middle schools are available at http://www.op97.org/business-office/food-service. During the 2022-23 school year, students may:

  • Bring a nut-free lunch from home.

  • Order school lunch.

PLEASE NOTE: During the 2022-23 school year, all students will be required to pay for their breakfast and lunch meals unless they are directly approved by the State of Illinois or approved after completing the 2022-23 Free and Reduced Meal Application.

Food Allergies/Nut-Safe Schools

Nuts and nut products are not allowed in any District 97 schools during the 2022-23 school year. This includes products that are labeled “processed in a facility that shares equipment with nut products.” Our schools have been nut-safe for the past two years—helping to create safer, more inclusive environments for all of our students.

Please visit https://bit.ly/3AyGPpI to access information about the district’s food allergy management program, as well as tips and options for identifying food that is safe for snacks and field trips. We appreciate your support of this important initiative!

School Fees

The district is currently accepting fee payments for the 2022-23 school year. Full payment is due by September 30, 2022. You can access the fee information by visiting https://www.op97.org/business-office/fees.

Text Messages from District 97

District 97 uses the notification system BrightArrow to communicate with families via email and phone calls. We have started using periodic text messages to send reminders directly to parents' cell phones. In order to receive text messages, parents must opt in by texting YES to 87569. Once you have subscribed, you will receive a text confirmation.

Texts may appear from District 97 from 87569 or a phone number with a 424 area code (you may wish to save them to your contacts).

Wellness Check-in Program

Please reach out to your school's school psychologist or social worker if you have social-emotional concerns about your child. If your child is experiencing an immediate mental health crisis, please call the Thrive 24hr Crisis Hotline at 708-383-7500. You may also refer to this local resource guide created by the Community Mental Health Board of the Oak Park Township.

Repeated Topics For Reference

GBMS Athletics Update

Please be advised that our 2022-2023 athletics are started and all athletic events begin at 4:30 pm. All students are required to leave the building at the end of the school day and return at 4:25 pm to cheer on their fellow eagles!!!!

Keep D97 Schools Allergy Safe - No Nuts Allowed

Please visit https://bit.ly/3j0KGTB to access information about the district’s food allergy management program, as well as tips and options for identifying food that is safe for snacks and field trips.

Nuts and nut products are not allowed in any District 97 schools during the 2022-23 school year. This includes products that are labeled “processed in a facility that shares equipment with nut products.”

We appreciate your help in adhering to this preventative measure.

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Please contact the Brooks Health Office and speak with Nurse Tracy Biggerstaff if you have questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 and any listed symptoms.

(708) 524- 3058 or tbiggerstaff@op97.org

Process for Reporting Positive COVID-19 Cases to D97 Schools

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they must complete the following steps:

1) In order to notify the school nurse and receive a return-to-school date, families/staff must complete the confidential COVID-19 Positive Case Notification Form as soon as possible following the positive test. Information provided will also be shared with the Oak Park Department of Public Health.

2) Families must continue to report student absences via the school attendance line, and staff must enter their absences in Frontline.

To see the rules for isolation and quarantine, click here. Additional resources are linked below.

STUDENT ATTENDANCE - How to Report Student Absences

Attendance will be taken every day for each class period by each of your child's teacher and it will be denoted in PowerSchool. Student's are expected to attend each of their classes at their scheduled time and day. If your student will be absent from school, please call the attendance number 708-665-3074 or email brooksattendance@op97.org

Office Phones and Dropping off Items at Brooks

Office Phones

Please note that our office staff sets the phone to go to voicemail from 8:30am to 9:15am daily. Please leave a message of your student's absence or you can email brooksattendance@op97.org. Our office staff will listen to voicemails to call back or direct calls as needed after 9:15am daily. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Dropping off Items at Brooks for your Student

You may drop off forgotten items for your student in the main office. Please note that we will not call into your student's classroom, as it is a disruption to the learning for other students and the teacher in the classroom. Your student should plan to stop by the main office on their way to lunch or between passing periods, if they think you may have dropped off the forgotten item for them to retrieve. We appreciate your understanding.


We will be following a block schedule again this school year. Students will attend 4 of their 8 classes Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday following an A/B Schedule and on Wednesdays following C Schedule where students will attend all of their classes. On the weeks where there is a day with no school, students classes will be A and B days only.

Cell Phone/Mobile Devices Away for the Day

Cell phones/Mobile Devices are not to be used during school hours. This includes calling parents/guardians due to illness, requesting items to be dropped off, etc.

  • Students can ask a teacher to use the classroom phone or the phone in the main office, if needed.

Cell phones are to be turned off/on silent upon entering the school building, stored in the student’s locker or backpack, and not used until the dismissal bell rings.

More Information can be found here. This will also be shared with students during the first week of school.

Tardies to Class

Being on time to class is essential for optimal learning for all students. This school year when a student reaches 15 tardies within a trimester, they will meet with their SOAR teacher to develop a strategy to ensure the student will get to all their classes on time. At 25 tardies within a trimester, the student will be assigned a time during their social time to meet with an administrator to reflect on root causes of tardies and develop a plan, additionally, parents/guardians will be contacted. At 35 tardies within the trimester, parents/guardians will be contacted to meet with their student and an administrator to develop a tardy contract.

Water Bottle Reminder

We ask that if possible to please send your student to school with a filled water bottle. There are no drinking fountains open, but we have water bottle filling stations in the school for our students to refill their water bottles when needed.

School Physicals and Immunizations

Incoming 6th-grade students and/or any new students who have transferred into District 97, MUST have a wellness physical and dental exam dated no less than one year prior to August 25th, 2022. Your child's physical must have been performed after August 25th, 2021 . Your child may not be admitted to school without these documents as of Monday, October 17th, 2022. Please submit the documents by mail or in person no later than August 25, 2022 to the following:

Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School

Attn: Health Office, Nurse Tracy Biggerstaff

325 S. Kenilworth Ave

Oak Park, IL 60302

SPORTS PHYSICALS – The State of Illinois Office of Education requires that any student who wishes to participate in interscholastic sports MUST have an Athletic Physical Examination, dated no less than one year prior to the first day of the current school year, anytime after August 25, 2021. It is MANDATORY that your child have this physical before they will be eligible to try out or participate in any interscholastic activity.

To access student health forms please visit http://www.op97.org/hr/health-requirements

**For any family having difficulty securing an appointment to get the physical completed, please email our School Nurse, Tracy Biggerstaff, tbiggerstaff@op97.org.

Technology Support

Technical support will be available from school and district technology staff by accessing the Help Desk through email, helpdesk@op97.org. When an email is submitted, a Help Desk ticket is created and assigned to technology staff, who will be working throughout the day to address technology concerns. Our technology team can support District 97 devices and student online programs.

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The Help Corner will features a frequently-asked question related to services and opportunities available for District 97 students and families. We will keep a complete list of these FAQs on our district website.

District 97 has created Community Resources Page. We also encourage families to stay connected through Facebook and Twitter. Additional updates can be found at:

Village of Oak Park

Oak Park Township

Oak Park Public Library

Park District of Oak Park

Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200

District 97 also has a broad network of partner organizations that provide an array of supports and services for Oak Park residents. The Community Mental Health Board and Oak Park and River Forest Townships have also put together a COVID-19 Social Services Resource Guide, which is available at https://tinyurl.com/oprfguide.

Community Resources

Distribution of information by a community group in accordance with District 97 policy does not imply, directly or indirectly, that the group's program(s), event(s) and/or services(s) is sanctioned, sponsored or endorsed by the district, the Board of Education or the superintendent.


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Friday Night Place Oak Park SMART Kids College Summer Program

Oak Park SMART Kids College Summer Program Registration Link: https://www.cognitoforms.com/CovenantYouthCollision/OakParkKidsCollegeRegistration2023

For additional information about the Friday Night Place program and services please visit the web site:


Parents and Gwendolyn Brooks Staff are also welcome to join our team: https://www.kidscollege.info/volunteer-with-us

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Dear Community Partner,

YEMBA is growing and we would appreciate your help finding talent to support open positions that we have available, which are:

  • Program Director
  • Program Manager
  • Fiscal Administrator
  • Executive Assistant
  • Adult Mentors

Please share the attached Ad with your audience/community. We thank you in advance for your support with this endeavor.

Edward Redd

Executive Director/Founder




Follow us on Facebook@ YembaInc

Read about us:

Area nonprofit gets a space of its own [Wednesday Journal]

Black History Month: Engineer determined to help young people see their potential [NBC Chicago]

Keeping their paths straight [Wednesday Journal]

Local nonprofit helps incoming freshmen set goals [Wednesday Journal]

Maywood Engineer’s Nonprofit Gets A Space Of Its Own [Village Free Press]

Maywood Man Nonprofits Births Artistic Black History Month Opportunities For Youth [Village Free Press]

Painting speaks volumes about shared values [Wednesday Journal]

YEMBA Recognizes D97 Students During Commencement Ceremony [Oak Park Elementary School District 97]
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Glenbard Parent Series (GPS): Navigating Healthy Families

The Glenbard Parent Series (GPS): Navigating Healthy Families is a distinguished speaker series dedicated to presenting relevant, high-profile authors, educators and clinicians. These high-caliber presenters offer practical research-based knowledge, strategies, and personal experience to support students’ engaged learning, and well-being.

Founded in 1995, GPS is a weekly resource for parents/caregivers/guardians (for children of all ages) as well as students, school staff, professionals and community members. GPS is here to inform, connect, and inspire. All programs are free and open to the public. Many events are presented at both noon and 7pm, and offered in multiple languages.

GPS is a resource for parents, educators, students, and community members to foster self-empowered children who collaborate, communicate, embrace diversity, create and think critically.

For the safety and convenience of our participants the majority of this year’s Glenbard Parent Series events will be presented virtually on zoom. No registration is required and all are welcome to attend.

Programs are offered free of charge, no registration is required, and the public is welcome to attend.

Details, event updates, and Zoom links can be found here: www.GlenbardGPS.org

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SUPPORT4U is a mental health resource for our students to anonymously text licensed mental health clinicians any time of the day for assistance or guidance. Students can text for any issue; typical reasons might include social issues, anxiety, depression, substance use, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, bullying, abuse, or any other mental health-related topic. The clinician’s goal is to steer the student to available resources in the school and community. To use, students just need to go to Support4U.live on their phone, click on the Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School logo and hit send. Help is just a text away.

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Thrive Services and Programs


Thrive is offering phone-based counseling, 24/7 crisis intervention services, medication management and, a free Thrive Check-In phone support line (Ext. 8) to address our community’s needs during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Call us at (708)383-7500. Our Front Desk team is also ready to assist you Monday-Friday, 9am to 2pm, with requests for referrals or new services and to reschedule or cancel an appointment.

Mental Health Resource, "Call4Calm"

Thrive is also a proud partner of the Illinois Call4Calm Text Line Service. Text “TALK” TO 552020 (or “HABLAR) for Spanish. The Illinois Call4Calm Text Line is not a crisis hotline, but is a source of support for anyone experiencing stress and in need of a listening ear.

And we know the COVID-19 pandemic can wear on every resource—from food and shelter to our emotional bandwidth and mental health. Fortunately, the Illinois Department of Human Services has launched a support line called Call4Calm that is reachable via text. Individuals who want to speak with a mental health professional can text the word “TALK” or “HABLAR” (for Spanish speakers) to 552-020. Within 24 hours, that individual will receive a call from a mental health professional employed by a local community health center.

People can also text other terms, like “unemployment” or “food” or “shelter” to the same number to receive information on how to navigate and access supports and services. Call4Calm is free, and individuals who use it can remain anonymous. We encourage you to share this resource with your students, families, and staff.