Former Liberty City Teacher Designs An App To Support Students' Mental Health

May 30, 2018

Students in South Florida could soon have an app to help them with their mental health. Teacher Samantha Pratt came up with the idea as a way for students to find help dealing with personal or school stressors. The app, called Klickengage, would also let teachers know the mental states of their students before the school day gets underway.

Pratt's proposal won third place in the Miami Herald Business Challenge and she is now seeking funding for the app. 

On Sundial, Pratt shared her inspiration for the idea:

WLRN: [Do students] open up right away?

Pratt: There's always a component of developing trust with your teacher and that definitely takes some time. But what I thought was most interesting is how willing these kids were to open up because they're talking about very serious issues like they were a normal everyday occurrence. And I think that was the scariest part. Gun violence and things like that. There were stories about cousins dying, finding siblings dead, and not having an adult in the home for multiple days on end.

You're hearing all these stories from these kids but where did this idea for [the app] start?

There wasn't one single incident but really it came from pure frustration. As a teacher I was trying to get [a] student help for things that were typical for all my students. In a room of 23 students, maybe 19 of them express issues that I thought a counselor should definitely be dealing with. But the problem was we had technically one counselor who was very rarely available. I realized I needed my students to get the support they needed now. I'm realizing I'm missing a lot with them and I didn't know that the reason they'd come in with a negative attitude was because of these very serious life stressors that they were bringing into the classroom. And I started to wonder if I could know each day ... that make me a better educator but also could I get them the support they needed faster. I knew my kids needed help and I knew they needed it now. And I thought technology was a perfect bridge for that.

How would [the app] work?

A student comes in and maybe three to four minutes of homeroom time they’re able to respond to five survey questions. Do you feel safe? Do you feel prepared to learn today? And they answer on a scale and then based on their answers they're coded into different groups. They're given tools they can use to cope with their day. Or they might need time to step out into the hallway or go take a walk or go get some water. Very simple things that kids can do.

What else would it then provide?

Now that teachers have the information they need about students they can adjust their teaching but they also can track this information over time for students. One of the biggest problems with getting students counseling services in schools is the really strenuous process of what you have to go through. The paperwork can sometimes take six to eight months for one child to get adequate services in the school and with the app we’re able to see if a student is red two or three days out of a week I can immediately say, hey can you take a second to talk to [the] school counselor and see if they need more than what we're doing in the classroom. 

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Bushido Lab is the company selected to develop the app, not the source of funds for it.