FALL RIVER — After an extensive search process, the Diocese of Fall River and Catholic Schools Office announced that Cynthia Roche has been appointed to the newly-created position of Diocesan School Adjustment Counselor. The main focus of this role is to support and assist the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools with any student social, emotional, behavioral, or crisis needs, and is also available for consultations, resources, student meetings, small group activities, and classroom discussions. Roche also provides consultations with parents, teachers, and school leaders on the social and emotional well-being of students from Pre-K to grade eight, as well as high school as needed. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, students are reporting a demonstrated increase in anxiety, depression, self-esteem, self-regulation, and general social and emotional needs. Moreover, the recent pandemic has exacerbated this problem as many students were not in school for months due to virtual learning, homeschooling, or in a hybrid model. The losses kids have suffered due to the pandemic include social skills as well as academics. 

Most of the elementary Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fall River have at least a part-time counselor on site, but there is a need to bridge the gap to offer more than what the individual schools can provide, in addition to offering extra support during a crisis or if there is a sudden increase in need. Roche will also be available to support teachers with any individual social or emotional needs as the current environment has been very challenging for educators in general.

According to Roche, “I have been very impressed with the school principals’ prioritization to meet the social and emotional needs of their students and faculty. Early in my career, I saw a broader variety of problems. However, recently, anxiety and depression have increased tremendously partly due to social media, which was not around 25 years ago. The ability for our schools to address students is so important for their overall health as I have worked with children experiencing anxiety as young as four years old.”

“An ever-present issue related to Covid is that young people need to learn how to play again,” said Lisa Serak, principal of St. Mary-Sacred Heart School in North Attleboro. “When students returned to a ‘normal’ classroom, we found that they struggled with how to interact with each other. Cynthia’s expertise and ability to address students on an individual basis has been such a blessing, especially since it is so challenging to fill such positions.”

Dan Roy, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Fall River said, “We welcome Cynthia to the Catholic Schools Office team that is charged with providing guidance and support to our schools striving to educate the whole person in nurturing, faith-filled environments. Drawing on years of experience at a high-performing Catholic elementary school in Rhode Island, she is attuned to the challenges facing young people today. She is accustomed to meeting their needs by working in the context of a Catholic school and in partnership with families.”

 Roche previously was a school counselor at St. Philomena (Pre-K to grade eight) in Portsmouth, R.I. for 25 years and has a Master’s degree in school counseling from Providence College. She is married and has three grown sons. She and her husband, John, belong to St. Barnabas Parish in Portsmouth, R.I.