At left, Lisa Hall, MSW LSW, a behavior specialist and performance coach at Summit Academy Columbus Transition High School, meets with Marquetta Austin, MSW, LISW-S, director of special education for Summit Academy Management’s southern region of schools. They apply their expertise in social work to serve students, many with special education challenges, holistically to meet their academic, social and emotional needs.

It’s a good day at Summit Academy Columbus Transition High School. Here, Behavior Specialist and Performance Coach Lisa R. Hall, MSW LSW, celebrates the achievements of two students who are already working toward their college degrees, one in nursing and the other in multimedia. Thanks to their enrollment in Ohio’s College Credit Plus program, the teens are earning high school and college credits concurrently.

Hall and Summit Academy Management Curriculum Administrator Lenee Giuliano guided the students through the program’s application process and ultimately to the coveted spots. Their peers ask them about college life and classes. They inspire them to keep their eyes on the prize.

“I’m so proud of both of them. I’m excited because they’re excited about their futures,” says Hall. “That’s what keeps me in the field and keeps me at Summit. I want to help these young people.  If we give them options, they will be successful.”

As a licensed social worker, Hall helps students navigate their way to success, whether it involves applying for college or working through everyday stresses. She serves as an advocate for teachers as well, examining student performance from the educator’s perspective. “You need to be well rounded when representing the students and the teachers,” she says.

Like her counterparts in Summit Academy Schools across Ohio, Hall, who was recently honored in a school-wide employee recognition program for her inspirational work style, says she wants to help students become independent and recognize attainable goals.

Marquetta Austin, MSW, LISW-S, Director of Special Education for Summit Academy Management’s southern region of schools, says social workers who assume positions such as those of behavior and intervention specialists for Summit Academy Schools are critical to student success. They work to close achievement gaps among students of various backgrounds, provide services that are culturally sensitive, execute restorative practices that reward students for their positive actions, and provide social and emotional curriculum that is woven into the academic setting.

“Social and emotional curriculum is embedded into our academic curriculum all day, every day,” says Austin. She explains, for example, that a student who is frustrated working with a classmate may be guided by a social worker to take a break, walk away or find another way to cope.

The schools’ social workers also conduct group and individual therapy sessions to help address students’ mental health needs, says Austin. She adds that the ultimate goal is to teach students skills that will enable them to prosper in their school, personal and professional lives.

“A lot of parents choose our schools because of the level of attention students receive that help meet their needs,” Austin says. She describes a typical school setting that may have one contracted social worker visiting a school once a week. “With our schools, social workers are available to all students, day-to-day, and they also provide crisis intervention to assist students with problems they may be facing at home as well.”

Summit Academy Schools have more than 20 social workers who serve students in such vital ways. While the circumstances and solutions will vary from day to day and from child to child, Summit Academy Schools’ social workers share the same hopes and optimism as Hall.

“We serve a wonderful group of young people,” she says. “If given inspiration, they will want to — and will — succeed.”