VESTAL, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – There’s additional help on the way for K-12 students in our community who are coping with challenges outside of school.

The Binghamton University Community Schools, or BUCS, program is receiving 2 grants totaling $9.3 million over 5 years from the federal government to bolster its mental health services provided to kids in 6 local districts.

BUCS was formed in 2018 and sends students getting their bachelor’s or master’s degrees in social work into area schools to assist teachers and counselors.

Laura Bronstein is Dean of the College of Community and Public Affairs which oversees BUCS.

Bronstein says may low-income families cannot afford special services for their children, or even take time off from work to take them to appointments.

“A lot of children aren’t able to get what they need. This kind of work brings those resources to these kids when families aren’t able to provide it. And brings it to the families as well so that the families can benefit.”

Bronstein says the pandemic has exacerbated issues of anxiety, depression and isolation and that it too often falls upon teachers to try to address these concerns in addition to educating the students.

BU grad student Emily Friends is about to get her MSW.

She’s worked with students in Windsor over the past 2 school years.

“I have a student right now who I’ve been working with all year. She’s just lovely. She’s been doing so well. Just going home and knowing even if I’m making small differences and doing small things for students, their life’s better.”

BUCS will use the grants to hire a director and assistant director and 6 social workers which will supervise 24 social work interns, 4 assigned to each district.

The interns will also receive a stipend.

Harpursville, Whitney Point, Windsor and Owego-Apalachin will get interns as part of the Rural Mental Health in Schools Expansion.

The Family Partner Program will work on family engagement in the Chenango Forks and Maine-Endwell districts.