Southbridge Public Schools announces $2 Million “Southbridge CARES” project with Clark University

The Southbridge CARES Project

(Coordinated Academic Resiliency and Emotional Success)


Jan. 24, 2024


Southbridge Public Schools, in conjunction with Clark University, is pleased to announce a partnership to develop a school-based mental health program designed to address Southbridge High School students’ academic, social-emotional, and college and career needs. The Southbridge CARES (Coordinated Academic Resiliency and Emotional Success) Project is funded yearly through grants. A grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts provides $249,994 for the first “planning year.” The five-year cost of the program is expected to be $2 million.

The partnership with Clark University will allow Southbridge High School to use evidence-based services, tools and technology to meet the emotional, academic and mental health needs of our students using a three-tiered system.

Tier 1: The MAAX (Maximizing Adolescent Academic eXcellence) program. This social development curriculum was developed to help middle school and high school students learn about themselves, foster good academic relationships and clarify their college and post-educational goals. The program’s specific aims including helping students: Promote a positive mindset; Develop skills for optimal school performance; Increase self-efficacy in mastering academic tasks; Improve educational engagement; Develop social skills; Strengthen bonding to school and peers; Increase knowledge and awareness of college and careers; Heighten educational aspirations.

Tier 2: MI PEACE Mobile Application. This behavioral health application helps to improve schools’ management of students’ behavioral health needs. The program gives school counselors a platform to create and collaborate on plans to coordinate care, facilitate wrap-around services and monitor student mental health progress. The app is HIPAA and FERPA compliant and available in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese. The application gives counselors and approved administrators data regarding mental health screening results, including depression, anxiety and sleep problems, along with highlighting students’ strengths and stressors.

Tier 3: Sensory Immersion Room. For students with behavioral health concerns, trauma or disruptive behavior, the Sensory Immersion Room will provide a soothing space to help those students regulate their emotions and ready themselves to engage in learning again. The room will provide virtual reality technology in conjunction with clinical interventions to help students engage in practices like breathing techniques, mindfulness and meditation that can help them to manage their emotions and behaviors.

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the incredible team at Clark University to provide Southbridge High School Students with access to such innovative programming,” said Southbridge Public Schools Receiver/Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey A. Villar.

“I am confident Southbridge CARES will dramatically impact our students and has strong potential to serve as a model approach for providing school-based mental health.”

About The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts: The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts is dedicated to improving the health of those who live or work in Central Massachusetts, with particular emphasis on vulnerable populations and unmet needs. Through its unique and impactful approach to grantmaking, the Foundation supports community-identified health issues, with health defined broadly to include social determinants of health and with a focus on promoting health equity. As a health conversion foundation launched in 1999 following the sale of the not-for-profit HMO Central Massachusetts Health Care Inc., the Foundation’s grants have totaled over $56 million to more than 230 unique organizations over its history. For more information, visit