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Voices of Interns Series: The Whole Child Approach by Sheridy Lortz

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Image of person next to text 'New DCSC Blog Series: Voices of Interns. In partnership with Denfeld HS Social Workers, Duluth Community School Collaborative hosts social work interns from UMD, St. Scholastica, and UWS. These are their voices. Read: The Whole Child Approach, by Sheridy Lortz, UMD MSW Candidate.'

The Duluth Community School Collaborative is nothing less than extraordinary. I have learned an extensive amount from the collaborative staff, but the most meaningful has been the whole child approach.

As a Master of Social Work student intern I was elated to hear how the whole child approach was being utilized in my community. My first thought was, “Why isn’t this used at every school?” Understanding the person in environment theory is essential when working to help a person reach their fullest potential.


The Duluth Community School Collaborative formed after parents and other community members noticed a need for more student supports. They formed the collaborative to host wrap around services for the students in the community. The whole child approach focuses on the child and whatever the child may need. DCSC offers support for their schools to provide dental hygiene, after school programs, socioemotional learning opportunities and countless other services by partnering with community resources.

Pandemic Partnerships

As the pandemic hit, DCSC worked with partners who recognized that not all families had means to provide devices for each student in the household to do distance learning. The Duluth Digital Inclusion Partnership was awarded a $150,000 grant to provide Chromebooks and WIFI hotspots for students and families in the Duluth School District.

The Collaborative also partnered with LifeHouse, another community-based youth resource to provide tutoring & support for youth in the Denfeld After School Happenings (DASH) program. LifeHouse hosted the DASH program in their space, and provided their education case manager as a tutor and mentor for students struggling with distance learning.

A significant number of students struggled through distance learning but the collaborative worked to bridge the gaps caused by the pandemic.


The DCSC was home to the first full service community school in the state of Minnesota. Community schools help break down the barriers for students experiencing inequities.

Poor academic performance leads to a number of life long issues. The average high school graduate is likely to live nine years longer than a non high school graduate.

The Collaborative has paved the way to help students succeed academically and personally with the whole child approach, during a pandemic or not. Though inequities and poverty are often factors in the Duluth Community Schools, the whole child approach is in place to reduce those barriers and increase strengths & resilience, creating conditions for all young people to achieve their highest potential.

Sheridy Lortz is a Master of Social Work candidate at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She has spent the academic year as an intern at Denfeld High School with the Duluth Community School Collaborative. Sheridy is passionate about working with young people to help them reach their fullest potential. For the past 5 years Sheridy has worked with adolescent youth and is passionate about her work. Sheridy has motivation and drive to create equity in the Duluth community and can be reached at

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