A Day in the Life of SEKA

In school, students learn to read and write. They memorize multiplication and division tables, along with significant dates in history. They learn the important skills to get by in life. However, public schools are not equipped to teach some of the most important lessons of all: how to handle big emotions and build relationship skills.

That’s where SEKA comes in.

What is SEKA

SEKA is the acronym for Southeast Kansas Achievers.

“SEKA is a school for big emotions,” SEKA coordinator Leah Maxfield said. “Just like regular school teaches academics, SEKA teaches other behaviors that are essential for kids. Our main goals are to help kids build a strong emotional and behavioral base and provide a structured environment. They work on responding to big emotions, identifying how they feel, responding appropriately to situations, and being respectful to others.”

SEKA is officially a psychosocial rehabilitation group. Therapists refer students to the community-based service as a way to provide additional support as they strive to meet goals. SEKA meets in Fort Scott, Uniontown, Garnett, Pleasanton, Iola, Chanute, Yates Center, and Erie. From 2015 to 2022, SEKA enrollment has more than doubled in size from serving 304 children to nearly 700.

“It’s just like another subject in school,” according to Ashley Adamson, Manager of Children’s Services – SEKA. “We work on goals that are set by the therapist. Students come to our program from all age groups, elementary to high school, and they all need just a little extra support.”

What a day looks like

While the program may take on a life of its own during each session, Adamson stressed that the curriculum is set forth by the state and utilizes an evidence-based approach that includes planned-out lessons, worksheets, and role-play scenarios. During the school year, SEKA meets after school throughout the week (excluding Fridays) from 3:30 to 5 p.m. However, during the summer, SEKA meets for all-day sessions. Each SEKA day includes a skill and activity/craft.

Maxfield laid out what a typical SEKA class looks like:

“We ease them in with a quiet activity. Often, this involves working on homework. Then, we have snack time, and one of them gets to be the snack helper. After we clean up from snack time, we do the skill lesson for the day. This usually takes us around 15-20 minutes. Once we’ve concluded the discussion about the lesson, we move on to the activity, which always supports the skill taught in the lesson. The activity might be a game, craft, or worksheet. One of their favorite games is clothespin tag. We also play charades a lot. Both of these enforce interpersonal skills, recognizing non-verbal cues, taking turns, and sportsmanship. After the game, we go to chore time. Each student has a chore, which changes daily. They may have to clean the tables and chairs, take out the trash, sweep the floors or help put away craft items. Throughout the entire session, they are applying important skills.”

Skills taught during each session include:

  • Following directions
  • Listening
  • Calming down
  • Focusing and refocusing
  • Avoiding distractions
  • Taking turns
  • Being respectful
  • Cooperating

SEKA days always conclude with the point sheet, where kids earn points for the first half and the last half of the session, based on behavior. The day is split into two halves, according to Maxfield, because you don’t want a bad start to the day to ruin the whole session. “Everyone can have a bad day,” she said. “But, it doesn’t have to stay that way.”

After the points are calculated, SEKA staff take students home and then complete all of their documentation about which services were provided, weekly updates, and the daily point sheets. All of this information stays with the children’s files and the therapist can refer to this information later to check progress.

One of a few constants

Maxfield shared that SEKA is one of the few constants in many of the students’ lives. “They need a structured, inclusive environment,” explained Maxfield. “And, many of them don’t get that – even at school. Some kids have to be separated from others at school, due to behavior issues. Many of them are accustomed to getting in trouble frequently. We provide a place they feel welcome and wanted.”

The days at SEKA have their ups and downs. “Actually, it’s more like a rollercoaster,” stated Maxfield. “But, I love it.”

Through SEKA, kids get a chance to flourish in ways they can’t in other settings. SEKA aides spend time with the kids in situations that case managers and therapists may not. Seeing them every day provides insight that may not be observed by other professionals. “We see them in a different environment. It’s one more place where we can help them apply what they’ve learned in therapy. With multiple people seeing them in multiple settings, we can pinpoint more ways to help kids succeed,” explained Maxfield.

Adamson agrees. While Maxfield has been with the program about a year, Adamson has worked on and off with SEKA since August 2007. “I really feel like we’re promoting future generations,” she said. “For those kids who have a clinical need for services, we are teaching them mental health. I went to school to teach – not mental health. But, in this role, the teacher side of me comes out. We are teaching integral life skills, and the kids are learning! Often, we have kids graduate themselves out of SEKA. While we miss them, it’s a huge win for all of us! We love it when that happens – it means that they’re learning and succeeding!”

If you are interested in learning more about the SEKA program, contact SEKMHC at (866) 973-2241. SEKMHC is consistently hiring SEKA aides. Additionally, if you are interested in obtaining SEKA services for your child, talk to his/her therapist for more information.