WHOLE Schools is a movement led by our school communities to reimagine how public schools support mental health through holistic, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive supports for students, teachers, and staff. The approach meets urgent needs while developing new models to fundamentally transform the way public schools support mental health. Core strategies include: direct funds to students and schools for immediate mental health needs, an Ambassador Program that destigmatizes mental health and connects people to resources, and new models piloted at two demonstration schools that will be evaluated and scaled.


BUILD and its communities apply bold, upstream, integrated, local, and data-driven (BUILD) approaches to improve health in communities that are adversely affected by upstream factors.


WHOLE Schools is reimagining how public schools support mental health. This work includes advocating to policymakers for creating the systems and funding necessary for this vision. Our school district is over 80% Black/African American and Latinx students. Our values are rooted in intersectionality by consistently naming and addressing the ways our community experiences harm, including racism, language injustice, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression.


This work requires leaders to understand mental health as essential to learning and teaching, and to understand the systems of oppression we must dismantle (e.g., over-disciplining students of color in place of mental health support). This work is about “whole” school support and preventative efforts that reduce the number of students with acute need. Long-term success means our schools have a shared vision, language, and understanding of resources for supporting thriving mental health.


Partners include the expertise we need – from healthcare professionals to education leaders to racial and social justice advocates to elected leaders and policymakers to the students, families and educators who have the crucial expertise of lived experience. Our community organizer leads creation of intentional space that addresses and balances power dynamics and ensures shared learning across the diverse partners in the room.


The WHOLE Schools Movement explicitly centers leaders of color, including students, most impacted by health inequities. Community voices directly informed the research that identified mental health as a top priority, and subsequently the specific focus and approach. Students, educators and parents are in leadership and membership roles on staff, the Advisory and Campaign Councils, the school-level working groups, and in key programs.


We are grounded in qualitative data from our listening project and community surveys, as well as district-data from teacher and student surveys. Data plays an important role in assessing the impact of the pilot approaches. The evaluation includes more traditional evaluation methods (under development) as well as structured, ongoing needs assessments that gather feedback and experiences from students, educators and parents.