Thomas Jefferson’s mental health professionals help students with educational and emotional obstacles.
Behind the scenes of the TJ community, there are two important figures who are trained and able to help support students through any situations that might occur. They are psychologist Natalie Koncz and social worker Samanda Davis. The duo does a number of things that impact students, from helping with a number of school-wide events such as The Unity Project and Challenge Day, to helping students with IEPs (Individualized Education Program) and the students in the Special Education program.
Koncz grew up in California, just outside of Oakland, before she decided to move to Boulder, Colorado, to study psychology at The University of Colorado. In 2002, she received her Bachelors of Arts degree in psychology, then continued her education at The University of Colorado Denver and received her graduate degree while also getting her Ed.S (Education Specialist) in school psychology. She decided to stay in Boulder after graduating so she could have some time to choose her next career path. Luckily, she found her way to the TJ community, and has been here for five years. “Everyone is kind of different, and Thomas Jefferson really prepares the students to understand that everyone is going to be different out in the world,” said Koncz. Aside from all the work Koncz does does for TJ, she enjoys spending her free time outdoors hiking or being crafty with some of her close friends. Koncz has always had an interest in psychology and the educational system, and found that she really enjoyed the two together. Koncz grew up in a family where school was a very important factor in life, which encouraged her to reach the success she has achieved today. Another big impact that has pushed Koncz to get to where she is today is her parents and friends always supporting her and pushing her to work hard to get to her current position.
Davis does outstanding work around the TJ community as well. Although she loves Colorado, she was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and moved to Denver in 2000. Davis has received impressive credentials in suicide prevention, which is very beneficial to schools, especially at the secondary level. This year is Davis’ 16th year working as a social worker. After getting her masters degree, she received an internship at a middle school in Phoenix and felt that she would love to go work in a school full-time. Davis feels as if her parents got her to where she is now by being activists and establishing the idea that “standing up for what you believe in” Davis stated. Davis was also raised with the idea that people should try their hardest to understand where people are coming from. Although Davis spends a lot of time helping around the TJ community, she enjoys reading books for her book club, which she has been a part of for the last 16 years, and traveling to new places. Denver Public Schools has the made the biggest impact on Davis’ career to guide her to be the social worker she is today by giving her the opportunity to work with the best psychologists along with working with the Special Education Team and administration at TJ.
Together, Koncz and Davis help support many students, whether it’s for educational help, at-home problems, or anything in between; they make sure that students can get the best opportunity possible when they walk through the school’s doors. These inspiring women impact the lives of TJ students by meeting with them for support and solving any issues that may distract them in their personal and school lives. However, that is just their main job; they also visit classes and broaden students’ knowledge about suicide and self-harm prevention, along with, providing sexual assault presentations.
Additionally, these two support families that are struggling financially, serving as homeless liaisons who reach out to make sure families in need are getting the support they require. They also help by running a food bank for the Thomas Jefferson families and helping with the Adopt-a-Family program at TJ for the families in need of a little extra help. “I think it really shows that TJ takes care of each other like they would their own family,” Davis explained.
The TJ community is more than thankful for all of the hard work and dedication these motivated women put into positively impacting the school’s education program. Dean of Students Mike Laurita said, “Their program goes out of its way to work with students here at TJ, and they do a fabulous job working with the kids.” Because of the tireless efforts of Koncz and Davis, students can feel as though they have tools and support to overcome life’s challenges.