OTA in Action: Josh Kascak
Meet Josh Kascak, a 6th and 7th grade leader, interventionist, speech and debate head coach, and middle school yearbook advisor at Frontier Academy Secondary in Colorado. This school year, Josh launched a new class called, “How to Survive Middle School” with his sixth and seventh graders focused on supporting their social-emotional wellbeing. After many sleepless nights, Josh came up with a project inspired by Humans of New York: the Trusted Adult Project. Josh recognized that as a result of never being told or given permission to look for and seek out the support of a trusted adult, he missed out on having that person in his life during his middle school years.
To ensure his students had a different experience, Josh set out to create a class to empower his students to identify and find that adult in their lives, while also giving them the tools to name and define what makes an adult a trusted one. As Josh puts it, “As a part of the MTSS team at my school, I think a lot about how to best support and motivate students. To me, a big part of that is finding a way to get them engaged with school or with someone at school that they feel motivated and comfortable in working with. We spend so much time trying to force interventions, interventionists, and work upon students without much consideration for them to make the choice: what motivates them, who do they want to work with, who do they think can help them in this moment.” After reading One Trusted Adult among other resources, Josh knew that an integral part of surviving middle school was having a trusted adult.
After identifying a trusted adult and interviewing them, students reflected on what they had learned about the adult they named as trusted. In reflecting about their experiences, students defined what makes an adult a trusted one. In many cases, students’ responses were connected to the benefits of having a Trusted Adult. One student shared, “I think it’s important to have a trusted adult because when you need someone to talk to, help you, or even just to know you have someone you can count on.” Another shared, “Because everyone needs to be able to rely on someone and not just be the person everyone else rely’s on.” The students collectively recognized that Trusted Adults are someone you feel safe, comfortable, and trusted around.
What’s next for Josh and his 6th and 7th graders? Share what they’ve learned with the larger school-wide population to empower others to seek out, name and connect with a Trusted Adult. Josh plans to continue the project in coming years hoping to add to it as he continues investing and engaging in the work of a Trusted Adult.