The Challenges

Lying just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO is East St. Louis, Illinois, which has for some years held the tragic distinction as the city with the highest homicide rate per capita in the world, East St. Louis School District 189 and its community footprint within St. Clair County is riddled with poverty and violence. Given the intergenerational extreme poverty of our students, it is not surprising that many struggle academically. Many of our students in District 189 are labeled at risk for academic failure for characteristics and demographics outside of their control. A high percentage of the East St. Louis community has a history of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which includes not only domestic violence but also such serious family stressors as homelessness and insecure housing, incarceration or death of a parent, lack of food, and mentally ill or substance abusing family members defined as living within an Adverse Community Environment.

Hundreds of our students have been identified as homeless. East St. Louis is ranked as one of the most violent cities in the U.S. In 2014, the murder rate in East St. Louis was 101.9 per 100,000 people, which was higher than the murder rate for the country of Honduras (at 90.4 per 100,000). (Honduras has the highest murder rate of any country in the world.) The trauma that has comprised the mental health and wellness of our youth, their families, and our community needs to be addressed. Most of ESTL students are depend on their schools to make a difference in their lives and now we plan to expand those services for when they need them the most.

Healing to Hope


It is the mission of The Wraparound Wellness Center and District 189 to reach out to youth in our community who have suffered from trauma, violence, and loss. We are dedicated to promoting healing by providing respectful, compassionate, culturally responsive services and supports. Our program is a community that heals the wounds of violence and embraces hope for a non-violent, compassionate community. Our model is based on the belief, supported by evidence, that youth are resilient and can overcome even the greatest challenges when given the right combination of services, support, and non-judgmental care. We plan to assist our youth from not just surviving but to thriving within East St. Louis.  

HOW do we know we are helping?

We will collect qualitative and quantitative data throughout this process. We have used data and statistics already gathered and HOPEFULLY create positive change. Some of our goals include:

Our goals: 

  • Within this grant period, our goal is to serve 50 District 189 students and their families who experienced or were perpetrators of violence.
  • We also aim to train 30 middle and high school students as Peace Warriors.
  • The SOS team will respond to 100% of incidents they are called to by law enforcement.  

Though we have lofty short-term goals in a short amount of time, we have HOPE that we will accomplish them. We are striving to heal all of these traumas that take a toll on students, families, and the community, provide hope for better days, and move the community–one step at a time–from surviving to thriving!

Youth Trauma in District 189 2018-2021

Our Approach

The SOS Team
(Support on Scene) is our trauma response team that responds to violent incidents or death in the community involving students 21 years old or younger between the hours of 4pm and 4am seven days a week.

a. The SOS team works alongside law enforcement to provide crisis management, trauma support, and assistance to family members, witnesses, and bystanders. The team covers all six districts in East St. Louis and many of the surrounding communities.

b. The SOS team also provides outreach, support, and education to the communities we serve.

We provide culturally-responsive, family-focused, strength-based, trauma-informed supports through the Wraparound model for youth who qualify. Our trauma recovery services serve students and families who have been involved with violence as a perpetrator or a victim; those who have prior justice system involvement, youth who are disconnected from school and work, and youth who are coping with trauma symptoms after witnessing or experiencing violence.

a. Our Wraparound team provides social work and informal wraparound services to East St. Louis youth and their caregivers who are currently detained at the St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center. We use violence interruption strategies as we provide support and service linkage.


b. We serve 50 District 189 students and their families who experienced or were perpetrators of violence.

Our Peace Warriors are our youth who themselves have experienced trauma but want to live peacefully in their East St. Louis community. They are intensely trained in Dr. King’s principles of non-violence and offer grief kits to peers who have experienced trauma and loss, lead community chats and events, and plant memorial trees for lost classmates.