National Dropout Prevention Center Announces Nation’s First Trauma-Skilled Specialist

Melisa Sandoval of Westminster Public Schools in Colorado Earns Certification

Anderson, SC—(December 18, 2019)—The National Dropout Prevention Center, a division of Successful Practices Network, announces the nation’s first graduate of the Trauma-Skilled Specialist certification program. Melisa Sandoval, Support Director of Social Emotional Learning and Student Agency for Westminster Public Schools in Westminster, Colorado, completed the program earlier this month.

The Trauma-Skilled Specialist certification program was created after years of research and examination of the impact of trauma on students’ learning and behavior. Designed to meet the growing demand for professional development and skills that educators and others who work with youth need to ensure students’ success in school and in life, the certification includes training and application of skills. 

Speaking of the program’s impact, Sandoval, a mental health professional and educator for over 15 years, says, “The training helps practitioners move far beyond being trauma informed to learning the skills necessary to effectuate change for students experiencing trauma. For example, although understanding the four R’s of being trauma informed is powerful for many practitioners, I often receive the question, ‘Now what?’ The Trauma-Skilled Specialist program helps to address the how and what after the why has been established.”

Research indicates that over 50% of students have experienced some type of trauma significant enough to lead to negative effects on learning and classroom behavior. Trauma-Skilled Specialist training incorporates Tier 1 interventions, meaning that all students benefit, and particularly those who are trauma-impacted. Certification requirements focus on trauma knowledge, resilience development, establishment of school climate and culture, and skills for management of trauma-based incidents. 

Sandoval will be joined by a growing number of Trauma-Skilled Specialists as the program, less than a year old, currently has over 200 participants nationwide.  For her part, Sandoval is excited to share her knowledge. She has already assembled a Trauma Leadership Team in the Westminster Public Schools system to align the trauma-skilled principles learned from training with a mission to deepen understanding, increase competence, and empower the school community so that all staff feel confident in supporting trauma-impacted students.  Sandoval says, “The work [of the Trauma Leadership Team] led to our development of our training framework, which has been rolled out to most of our schools this fall with the goal of reaching 80% of our schools by the end of this school year… and 100% by next fall.”

Westminster Public Schools joins a growing number of schools and school systems nationwide that recognize the need for unity and consistency of staff behaviors and strategies for addressing the behavioral and learning issues of trauma-impacted students and for improving rates of attendance, engagement with instruction, graduation outcomes, and reduced behavioral incidents.

In addition to the Trauma-Skilled Specialist certification program, NDPC provides Trauma-Skilled Schools certification and offers national and local training institutes to address trauma’s impact on students’ cognitive function and behavior in schools. These trainings fulfill the mandated requirement in some states that educators receive professional development in trauma and also fulfills a requirement for Trauma-Skilled Specialist Certification.  For information on state or school specific trauma-skilled training institutes, contact Dr. Sandy Addis, Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center, at haddis@ by calling (864) 934-8572.


About the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC)
Begun in 1986 to serve as a clearinghouse on issues related to dropout prevention and to offer strategies to increase school graduation rates, the NDPC is also a national resource for sharing solutions for student success. The organization’s website——is the nation’s leading resource in providing effective, research-based solutions to engaging students and reducing dropout. By promoting awareness of successful programs and policies related to dropout prevention, the NDPC impacts education from the local to the national level. In 2018, NDPC joined Successful Practices Network and continues to deliver its mission and services under SPN’s guidance.         

About Successful Practices Network 

Successful Practices Network(SPN) is a not-for-profit organization that works with schools and districts globally. The organization is dedicated to bringing the most up-to-date resources and assistance to practitioners and others to achieve success by design, specializing in the areas of Dropout Prevention, Trauma Skills, Career and Technical Education and Literacy. 

Photo Caption: Melisa Sandoval, Support Director of Social Emotional Learning and Student Agency for Westminster Public Schools in Westminster, Colorado, Certified as Nation’s First Trauma-Skilled Specialist

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