CIS in NY1: Helping Youth Cope with Loss

Home » News » CIS in NY1: Helping Youth Cope with Loss

June 25, 2024

Counseling In Schools was recently featured in a segment by NY1 for our close partnership with the Heritage School. The segment highlights how our grief support services following the murder of a student deepened our relationship with the school and led to youth driven advocacy and community growth

Watch the full segment online, or read the accompanying piece below:

One school’s path forward after a tragic loss
By Jillian Jorgensen New York City | PUBLISHED 10:45 AM ET Jun. 24, 2024

When Dyanand Sugrim arrived at The Heritage School in 2011, he was the third principal to lead the school’s seniors in four years.

“One of the seniors of that year, he said, ‘So when are you going to be leaving?’ Right? And that was essentially the kind of feeling and the vibe here at Heritage — that there was turnover, lack of stability and lack of community,” Sugrim said.

Thirteen years later, Sugrim is still there — and that student’s words have helped inform his mission to build community and improve outcomes for the students passing through the East Harlem school’s doors. One way the school does that is a partnership with the nonprofit organization Counseling in Schools, a collaboration that was deepened after tragedy hit the school community in 2017.

“One of my students was shot within a few blocks of our school, and he was a graduating senior. Devastating to our community,” Sugrim said.

The student, 17-year-old Lewis Encarnacion, was killed. Counseling in Schools worked quickly to set up support for students and staff in the building, and help them find ways to voice their feelings about the gun violence in their community.

“We provided a space to capture students’ voices. We provided a space for grieving. But then we also gave the students a charge: What can we do about this in our school, and what can we do about this outside of our school?” he said.

The organization’s response spurred Sugrim to grow their partnership even further. Kevin Dahill-Fuchel, executive director of Counseling in Schools, says they see schools as centers of healing.

“Whether you have something that you know is ailing you or whether you just need to sort of be able to grow with less pain, right? It’s a healing movement like, you know, high schools, adolescence. It’s a tough time,” Dahill-Fuchel said.

The organization is part of the school’s advisory program, a weekly class led by a teacher, a guidance counselor and a mental health clinician.

“It just brings you closer as a class, and it brings you closer with your teachers and your guidance counselors,” junior Adele Carbonell said.

And counselors maintain a room where students are able to meet one-on-one with counselors, or in groups to just talk things out.

“That room has helped me find out so many things about myself that I didn’t even know existed before, like also other issues that I’ve had before that I would just suppress and not really deal with because I wouldn’t know how to deal with it, nor would I want to deal with it,” junior Adelyn Pointer said.

Sugrim says the work of building community has paid off. Despite the school’s challenges — 90% of students come from low-income homes — the most recent August four-year graduation rate was 82%. City data shows that’s up from a 62% August graduation rate in 2011, the class that graduated just before Sugrim’s arrival.

Sugrim says he takes pride in knowing his school faced tragedy head-on, in a way that made it a better place.

“We didn’t just, we didn’t lay down. We took the charge. We took the charge and we made something positive out of this. And I think the legacy of Lewis lives on,” he said.

Hope, purpose and determination can flourish.

Together, let's work toward a bright, resilient future for New York City's children, families and schools.

the only thing missing is you

Become a part of our community strength

Skip to content