Denair Superintendent, Board President Participate on Panel Discussing Children’s Mental Health Needs

Denair Board President Crystal Sousa, middle, and Superintendent Terry Metzger, second from left, were part of a panel that discussed children’s mental health issues

Two leaders from the Denair Unified School District participated on a panel last week that discussed the mental health needs of students.

Superintendent Terry Metzger and DUSD Board President Crystal Sousa were among three education leaders interviewed by a Modesto Bee reporter as part of the forum. Sousa also is principal at Valley Community School in Atwater.

The event in Turlock was hosted by EMC Medical Foundation. Metzger, Sousa and Tracy Manzoni of the Patterson Unified School District shared advice on how K-12 students can best cope with social media pressure, anxiety, depression and other common challenges.

Metzger talked about some students are affected by their interactions with peers on social media.

“When we were growing up, if we had a conflict with someone at school, we were usually able to escape it at home,” she said. “With social media, that’s not true anymore. Also, we need to understand that social media and online gaming are designed in a way to stimulate the brain in the same way that addiction does. Students are constantly thinking about their likes, followers and streaks. Kids never get a break. There’s a lot of pressure.”

Sousa said as many as 40% of the at-risk students at her Atwater school are gang members. Many of them have undiagnosed mental health issues, she said. One tactic the school has implemented to lessen social media pressure, Sousa said, is to ban cell phones on campus.

“Now I look around me and kids are actually looking each other in the eye at lunch and having conversations,” she said.

Sousa offered some general advice to all parents: Just listen to your kids. …. What’s the harm of giving them too much attention, because we know the harm of not giving them any attention or (not) giving them help when they’re crying out.”

Since the fall of 2018, the Denair district has offered mental health services to students and their families in partnership with Sierra Vista Child & Family Services of Modesto. A full-time mental health clinician is stationed at Denair Middle School to work with students and their families from all DUSD campuses.

The program is funded by the Legacy Health Endowment, whose mission is to provide financial and technical support to improve the health of people living in Stanislaus and Merced counties.

One of Legacy Health’s grants funds a program directed by Sierra Vista that focuses on the mental health of people living in southeastern Stanislaus County. Research by Sierra Vista shows that some children and teens in the area can be adversely affected by their socioeconomic status or rural living conditions.

Denair’s Season Ends with 47-44 Loss in First Round of NorCal Basketball Tournament

Submitted by Denair High School:

PACIFICA – A coach’s perspective. That’s what R.J. Henderson tried to impart to his Denair players Tuesday night in a tearful locker room after 47-44 defeat against Pacific Bay Christian in the first round of the Northern California Division V basketball tournament.

Less than a day later — the sting and disappointment of a close loss still fresh in his mind – Henderson talked not of how the season ended, but of the magical moments it featured and the lifetime memories that were created.

“We had an incredible run,” he said. “You’re not going to repeat 26-4 very often. It was just one of those great years. I want to thank those kids; my coaching staff, which was terrific; the administration, which let the coaches coach; and the parents, who supported all the traveling we did in the spring and summer to be in the position we’re in.

“It was just a special group. Everything that transpired since November has been special.”

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Denair Seed 10th in NorCal Basketball Tournament; Coyotes Open Play Tuesday in Pacifica

Submitted by Denair High School:

R.J. Henderson thinks Tuesday’s first-round matchup against Pacific Bay Christian in the NorCal Division V basketball tournament could not have worked out any better for his Denair team.

That’s because, in many ways, the seventh-seeded Eagles (27-3) are very similar to the 10th-seeded Coyotes (26-3).

They have a big center – 6-foot-7 senior Dwight Bumgarner – who can be a load in the middle. He averages about 14 points and nine rebounds a game.

Denair responds with its own physical front line featuring 6-6 senior Jacob Kuharski (10.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and 6-2 senior Jordan Smith-Sires (12.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg).

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Career Fair Opens Students’ Eyes to Many Different Jobs

Submitted by Denair High School:

Dan Desomma started at the Turlock Irrigation District in 1996 as a temporary worker. A few months later, he was hired full time in the maintenance department. Eventually, he worked his way into the power department, where he has spent the last 18 years as a troubleshooter. When the power goes out, he’s the guy who gets the call.

Desomma loves his job, loves helping people and loves working in the community in which he grew up. He has only a high school education and a couple of years of college, but years of specialized training that qualifies him for a career that pays him almost $60 an hour.

Friday, Denair High School’s third annual Career Fair Desomma and three other TID linemen shared their insight about their jobs, the equipment they use and the company they worked for. They were among more than two dozen presenters ranging from educators to bankers, military and law enforcement, medical assistants and dental hygienists, a local mayor, a funeral director, a nail salon employee, a civil engineer and various business executives.

All converged on the Denair campus to give students a chance not only to hear about different careers, but to ask questions about the education, training, preparation and other skills that it takes to do them. All seventh- through 12th-graders signed up in advance for three 30-minute sessions.

“About 50 percent of our graduates go straight into the workforce after graduation, so it’s important that we expose them to many different kind of career opportunities,” said Principal Kara Backman.

The TID linemen were a popular choice for many young men. While most sessions were inside classrooms, the TID crew was outside in the quad, where students could send the bucket trucks, handle some of the equipment and even try on the protective clothing that guards against electrical shock.

“TID is a great place to work,” said lineman Adam Hope. “It’s provided a good living for my family and kids. There are a lot of different career paths there.”

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Denair Falls 60-45 to Bradshaw Christian, Awaits Pairing in Next Week’s NorCal Basketball Tournament

Submitted by Denair High School:

ELK GROVE – On this night, Bradshaw Christian simply was the better team. Led by 6-foot-8 senior center Javion Cooper, the Pride turned away Denair 60-45 Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V basketball playoffs.

Denair (26-3), which rolled to a Southern League championship behind its bruising front line and overall balance, found itself in an unfamiliar position as the smaller team against Bradshaw Christian and Cooper.

“He had seven or eight blocked shots by himself and they had 12 or 13 as a team,” said Denair Coach R.J. Henderson. “I think their length was the difference. You can watch it on film, but until you see it in person or coach against it, it’s just a different feel. I think it took us until halftime to really adjust.”

By that time, the Coyotes were down 31-21. And though they cut the lead to eight points early in the fourth quarter, they never could get close enough to really threaten Bradshaw.

“Every time we made a run, they usually answered it with a run of their own,” Henderson said. “Ten points behind felt like 25. Credit to them. Where we wanted to catch the ball, they didn’t let us.

“I wasn’t disappointed with our effort. … I just think sometimes you’re going to run up against a team that’s better.”

Jordan Smith-Siles led Denair with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Jacob Kuharski had 14 rebounds. Sophomore guard Connor Leonard came off the bench to add seven points and seven assists.

“Jordan was really our one guy who kept us in it,” Henderson said. “And I thought Connor played really well.”

Bradshaw’s victory avenged last season’s overtime loss to Denair in the second round of the playoffs.

Despite losing, Denair will play at least once more next week in the Northern California tournament. Pairings will be announced Sunday and the Coyotes certainly can expect a long bus ride to a higher seeded opponent.

“My guess is we’ll play a Section champ or runner-up,” Henderson said. “Our seniors aren’t ready for this to end yet. There were some tears in the locker room after the game. … I don’t have any idea where they’ll send us. I just know we have another game.”

Meanwhile, Bradshaw Christian moves on to the Section finals on Friday against Brookside Christian in Sacramento. Both schools also have already qualified for the NorCal tournament.