Winside's P.I.E. Night proactively informs, educates Northeast Nebraska parents

Winside's P.I.E. Night proactively informs, educates Northeast Nebraska parents

By Tyler Dahlgren

During her first year as a school counselor, Winside’s Andrea Hinrichs found herself fixating on a possible disconnect between parents of students in the small, northeast Nebraska district and the issues their children could very well deal with every day.

Issues that, while sometimes uncomfortable to talk to about, endlessly flood daily newsfeeds. Issues like cyberbullying, anxiety and depression. Suicide prevention training, human trafficking and behavior management. It happens everywhere. Even in peaceful Nebraska small towns.

If parents weren’t reaching out to school counselors or other possible providers, then where were they getting resources and education? Hinrichs became concerned they simply weren’t.

“I worry that in small towns and small schools, parents may feel judged or afraid to ask for those resources or some type of support,” she said. “I started to wonder if the school could host a conference for parents and community members.”

The event she envisioned would mirror various conferences teachers attend throughout the year, with information booths and breakout sessions. She took the idea to Winside’s administration team, school psychologist Daphne Darter and the rest of the school’s staff, and the ball really got rolling from there.

Darter recommended expanding the event, which was cleverly named P.I.E Night (Parent Information Event) and slated for Pie Day, March 14th, to encompass all of northeast Nebraska. A planning committee came together, comprised of area agencies and other school counselors, many of whom were willing to lead one of eight breakout sessions or hold a spot at one of 12 booths.

(To learn more about the event's speakers, visit their Facebook Page.)

Late winter storms forced event organizers to push P.I.E Night back to April 12th, throwing a wrench into planning, door prizes, and other logistical issues. Hinrichs and her team pushed on, though.

“As we contacted agencies to see if they wanted to have a booth or provide information for resource bags the attendees received, many other agencies contacted us to ask if they could be a part of the event,” she said. “I think their willingness to inform and educate shows their deep commitment and dedication to the well-being of today’s youth.”

For Hinrichs, taking a proactive approach at sparking discussions which are almost always difficult for adults to hold with kids was the night’s ultimate goal. Knowledge is power, she added, before noting something Ann Koopman of Region 4, who presented on suicide prevention, said.

“Ann said ‘If we reach one person, then we have accomplished our goal,’” said Hinrichs. “We are confident that many, many more than just one were reached on the evening of the Parent Information Event.”

More than anything, event organizers wanted those in attendance to leave Winside more confident in talking about the difficulties their children could be encountering. Having a discussion is the first step, and Hinrichs wants parents to know the school is always there to help.

“We hope they left with knowledge of where and how to seek outside support if necessary.”