Tara created RIVER Educational Consulting in 2017, which is a specialized consulting firm designed to educate school staff, coaches, community organizations, students, families, and first responders on ways to identify and address educational, behavioral, emotional, social and mental health concerns among children, adolescents, and adults.
They teach others to recognize students who may be using negative coping strategies like self-harm and substance abuse, exhibiting suicidal ideation, and those who may be experiencing a breakdown in mental/emotional regulation. They provide advocacy services for educational 504s, IEPs, Reintegration plans, and Behavioral Intervention contracts. They perform community outreach via podcasts, in-person lectures and community discussions, training, and professional development offerings.
The REC mission is to arm all individuals with the knowledge to help our younger generations learn to regulate themselves emotionally, socially, behaviorally, and mentally, so they can live happy, healthy, fruitful lives. REC hopes to help first responders understand their own secondary trauma as a result of their daily work encounters, and they are beginning to reach out to our military servicemen and women to help them with their re-integration processes. REC works hard to open those conversations about mental health and education to everyone, and continues to break down the stigma of mental illness.
What was the reason that you started your business?
As an educator, I realized that some of my students were not receiving the emotional, social, behavioral, and mental help they needed, both in school and at home. When I was completing my doctoral studies in 2015, I recognized a flaw in the teaching and administration graduate programs. I found absolutely no educational programs for teachers and administrators specifically offering courses training them in the mental and emotional health and well-being of students. Cross-curriculum coursework may be attained should the administrator/teacher gain permission to enter a social work/psychology class, but overall, many educators are either denied these classes or cannot fit them into the graduation timeline.
When I gathered quantitative data from 50+ principals in Massachusetts middle and high schools, very few of them (>5%) knew how to describe self-harm, suicidal ideation, and what identification markers could be determined as to whom is using such negative coping strategies. Yet, many principals and other administrative team members are the very ones who sign off on treatment/behavioral health plans for struggling students without even having the knowledge about the overall health of the student.
So, with the overarching question of “How can we teach our educational/athletics/community organizational leaders to recognize and identify the signs, symptoms, causes, and reasons for the use of negative coping strategies in our student populations? Then, using that knowledge, how can they best create and implement compassionate treatment and/or intervention plans designed for the young child and adolescent?” Thus, the impetus for the creation of REC was, and still is, to fill in the missing piece of mental/emotional/behavioral health of the child in the everyday classroom environment. Since then, we have organically expanded to involve the health and well-being of parents, first responders, and military men and women. We continue to build our portfolio of training out of a growing need to help others understand secondary trauma as a result of occupational requirements in educators, first responders, and military members, PTSD resulting from negative living environments and/or occupational experiences, and the existing rise of anxiety and depression within students and adults alike.
Was there anyone who discouraged you from starting your own business or continuing to grow it?
I have been met with resistance from state, federal, and local officials who deem RIVER Educational Consulting’s offerings necessary, but are unable to support. I have also petitioned at the city level to have Massachusetts Universities and Colleges to have a mandated Mental Health requirement within the obligatory classes necessary for graduation from an Educational Program and necessary for certification in Education. On the financial level, I have not been as successful in finding partners to support the financial needs of this growing company, so all of us at REC have other jobs to supplement our incomes at this time.
If you could change one thing about the way mom entrepreneurs are perceived, what would it be?
Even with the force and knowledge-base that I present at city councils, community meetings, and other roundtable discussions, I am not looked at as a member of the Ph.D. community, nor as a scholar and expert in self-harm, suicide, anxiety disorders, and addiction. Instead, the public deters its decision-making to a possibly less-qualified male, who may or may not be as knowledgeable as me in our joint field. I simply wish we as mom entrepreneurs would be valued for the talent, knowledge, and the compassion that we bring to our fields, and given the respect, consideration, and credit for being badasses of business.
What’s something good that’s happened to you in the past year?
I have been honored for the second year in a row with an award for my Leadership Role in Education & Social Transformation.
Where do you turn for biz inspiration?
What excites you most about entrepreneurship and where do you see things headed in the future?
With all that is going on involving this pandemic, REC hopes to be there to provide, create, and implement emotional, behavioral, educational, social and mental reintegration plans for children and adults. We hope to provide a shoulder to lean on, to listen to others in their moments of weakness, in efforts to help them find their way if lost, and to provide some understandings about all that they may be feeling.
I am excited about the future and to see what role REC can play in society once our quarantine periods are up. We will continue to provide our services via telehealth and are continuing our blog posts on our website. We post on google, facebook, and coming soon, Instagram! As the creator of RIVER Educational Consulting, I hope that we continue to go into schools, sports associations, community centers, and colleges & universities to educate others on the overall health needs of our people.
Why did you join The Founding Moms Community? What do you like most about it?
I joined The Founding Moms Community in order to seek motivation, accountability, and support. I find that our meetings can be anywhere from leaning on one another with failed business ventures to looking for support on how to approach a customer or launch a new adventure. We talk about contracts, advertising, marketing, to work-home life balance. Each time I get off the zoom chat (now) or left the in-person meeting (before), I am rejuvenated and ready to work!