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STEM Center for Strength offers help to those impacted by shooting

$1.9 million federal grant creates mental health resource for STEM School Highlands Ranch community.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — Nearly one year after Kendrick Castillo was killed and eight other students injured at STEM School Highlands Ranch, the emotions are still strong for parents of students at the time like Nara Altmann.

"The pain is there," Altmann said. "We just keep it below the surface and at moments like this, it comes back again and people need the support."

Her daughter, Marina, attended STEM School last year and Altmann said she remembers her own moment of panic the day of the shooting on May 7.

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"My colleague told me, 'There has been a shooting,' and she knew it was [at] my daughter's school," Altmann said.

Nearly one year later, something new has been set up across the street from the school, a mental health resource called the STEM Center for Strength.

"The STEM Center for Strength is a resiliency center," said Dr. Cynthia Grant, chief clinical officer for the AllHealth Network. 

Through a $1.9 million federal grant obtained with the help of the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance and the Office of Victims of Crime, the AllHealth Network, a nonprofit, created a place for the STEM School community to get mental health supports, especially as May 7 approaches.

"Recovery from a trauma is not a linear process," Dr. Grant said. "Oftentimes, people struggle when a significant date comes up."

Altmann agreed.

"Even now just thinking about it, just talking with you, yeah, the emotions come back." Altmann said.

Marina said the STEM Center for Strength is good for students.

"Some people definitely need that," said seventh grader Marina. "It's kinda like that feeling where you know that you're positive there's someone who needs what you need."

The center is offering online sessions and will soon provide in-person counseling.

"Some people will need to see a counselor, but other people won't," Grant said. "Other people need psych-education, information. They just need a place to gather and connect."

The STEM Center for Strength will give teens a place to relax with a lounge and with games.

"Sometimes, that's important just to hang out," Marina said. "Be with people, like other people that go to STEM, but just hang out. That can kind of take away the problem cause you're replacing it with something good."

The STEM Center for Strength is offering virtual services all day long on May 7, including free 30-minute sessions with a counselor via video chat, webinars, and Zoom session support groups.

> More information about the center can be found here.

Grant said it is offered free of charge to anyone impacted by the STEM School shooting.

"It can be very therapeutic to talk, to gather together, to know that you're not alone," Grant said.

Altmann said she likes knowing that for her and her daughter.

"I've been looking for places that bring the community together and hopefully more people will realize how important that is," Altmann said.

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