How Are Our Kids Doing? – Interview With Angie Fusco

Angie Fusco, 919-837-1100

Angie Fusco, Ex. Dir. of Auldern Academy (NC) explains her view that in our young people the good and bad extremes are still there but seem more intense than ever before.  Unfortunately, the regular kids are struggling more than ever before.  She outlines several modern elements in our society that seem to interfere with regular kids’ ability to reach their potential.  [Our thanks to Rich Simpson, owner of Pathways Abroad for providing our intro music].

Angie and Lon discuss the modern problems all kids are facing.

The newspapers and media are full of stories on how our kids are doing.  Both stories seem to come out:  That they are brighter and better educated than any previous generation, and they are in serious trouble and way too many are falling by the wayside.  The truth probably lies in the middle, with both being true, but for different kids.  The average ones seem to often be floundering and not making the standard markers at the same ages as previous generations.  These are not the outstanding ones, or those creating serious problems, but there seems to be something not going as well for those that don’t fit in either of the above categories.

What do you think?


Transcript:  Lon Woodbury: Well good Morning, this is Lon Woodbury again with the Woodbury Report and it is March 30th at 10 o’clock in the morning, 2018 and I have Angie Fusco on the line.  Angie, good morning! good to have you here.

Angie Fusco: Good morning Lon I am very happy to join you

Lon Woodbury: Well Angie is the Executive Dir. of Auldern Academy in North Carolina, she has had thirty years of experience working with struggling teens that have had problems. And Today we are going to talk about  kids in general, not only those she is working with at Auldern academy but kids in the country in general, and the topic is, ‘’how are our kids doing?’’ so from your perspective and working with the kids that have been sort of falling off the rails, in general how do you think our kids are doing in the united states?

Angie Fusco: So, I mean – and that’s a great question. I think you know you have a gambit that you can see across the country and you have certainly students that are doing very well you see great big targeted brain power being represented in kids that are gifted and creative and they’re just vivaciously alive academically and socially and then you see those students who we are watching on the news that are involved – in the worst case scenario school shootings and just emotionally a wreck! And just Really lost in the world and then you obviously have those kids in the middle. so, I think that’s a great question, but I think it’s a very significant answer if I will say, because I think you have kids of every variety out there that you’re dealing with, and you don’t really see consistency across the board anymore

Lon Woodbury: You know one of the things that I’ve heard from a lot of professionals that work particularly in this field –  they are asking if kids are getting worse? Or are they getting better? and there’s a typical answer coming down to yes or no, but do you think kids are getting worse? are the ones that are having troubles having worse symptoms more difficult to work with? Or is that changing or pretty much the same?

Angie Fusco: No, I think absolutely the answer is yes

Lon Woodbury: They are getting worse, what are you seeing in your experience?

Angie Fusco: They are getting worse, I mean just in relating to the teenage girls that we’re seeing at Auldern academy, we are seeing girls that are coming in most typically with regular mental health diagnosis of depression and anxiety. I would tell you that those are almost at 100% ratios of the students that we’re working with coming with those diagnosis, but also just the two main trends that I have seen even from there, is kids coming in with executive functioning issues, and then kids coming in also with some complex trauma that they’ve experienced in their young lives already.

Lon Woodbury:    You know to look at back when you first started, it seems to me like a lot of these problems that we didn’t see, maybe we didn’t recognise them. but we didn’t see like executive functioning as a fairly new concept, but I don’t recall that we’ve that much or as severe as we see now!

Angie Fusco: Yeah I agree with you Lon and I think who knows who came first the chicken or the eggs, was it always there? I believe if its always been there, I believe what we are doing better now is we have obviously more information at our disposal, so we are better educated but we are also doing better diagnostics and then the true sense of where the society is and where the family Is, I think is represented in every aspect, in what kids are facing as far as school relationships, peer relationships, relationships that they have with other people be it with church setting, social setting –  I think the relationship social difficulties that are reflected in this country, are certainly being felt by our students and the main place where that is really showing, Is the health of the family system.


Lon Woodbury: That’s the real problem too, I had a thought while you were talking. I heard of a story of some Japanese educators that came to this country to study our education system, and at the conclusion of it one of them says, ‘’you know if we conduct in our school like what you do, all our students would be ADHD. And, I think there is something to that too as we hear about the pressures that kids are under – the academic pressures that high school kids are under.

Angie Fusco: Well I agree and if you look at what we’ve done to teachers in this country, we have become evidence based so to speak in that they are teaching to the test, and we are really driven by results of kids scoring on tests. What we fail to realise, and where teachers have been and most successful, is in the relationships that they could build with students in the classroom and the environment that they build, whether it be safety, security, predictability, consistency but also creativity. And when teachers are being pressed to really focus in on completing a-z in this amount of time and hitting the scores a lot of those other variables get pushed to the wayside. and then those kids who have learning differences or learning difficulties they also tend to get ostracized and pushed to the side because, they become more work for a teacher to really address, than what that person has time for or what they are being, what we say employed for. And so we we’ve really broken their ability to reach kids on a personal level and schools become this almost factory like setting! and with that comes all of these expectations for kids to produce, produce, produce, but kids are not producers yet, they are consumers and so we fail to realise that consumers have needs, and they have to be educated not only in subject matter but in the world and you used to be able to have that experience in the home and it relayed into the relationships and expectations for the school. They were bridges for each other, now they tend to be completely different and I do think where we’ve gone to these mega schools, we’ve lost community schools where all the kids in the neighbourhood went to the same school. We have now closed those, and we have these huge schools and they’re really economically motivated, but is that best for our kids? No. I think we are losing a lot of kids. I think a lot of kids are becoming statistics and casualty to a system that does not meet their needs.

Lon Woodbury: You know that reminds me because when I was a kid my father was a superintendent, and a principal and in the 1950s in Idaho when a school consolidation occurred, and I remember a little bit of the debate, my father was against it because he felt like consolidating schools and losing the community schools would be a loss of educational experience with the kids and I think history has turned out right. But now, we have schools like these shootings often times columbine, parkland a lot of these shootings are with mega schools 2- 3000 and its big because you see the economies of scale, but you lose, the students lose out on the personal touch.

Angie Fusco: Right

Lon Woodbury: And so, in order to gain something that’s a lower priority we lose something that should be the top priority, I think that’s part of what is happening with the kids, but yeah this is a big subject

Angie Fusco: Yeah absolutely! you can simplify in that most people do not attack people or feel some kind of animosity towards their friends. if they do its very temporary, they work through it but people tend to attack, tend to fight, tend to have animosity towards people who they feel are their enemies and I will tell you that we need to be paying attention to the kids that are angry, because it relates to not only in the loss of that personal touch and those relationships in schools, in the family but it also relates to where kids are at struggling with just mental health issues and how are kids being allowed to struggle.

Are we leaving kids opportunities to struggle? I will tell you that many other folks that I work with would tell you we’re not raising resilient kids because we are not giving them opportunities to be independent thinkers, because if they are independent thinkers then they will make mistakes and so instead parents are jumping in and doing for our kids what frankly kids in the past were expected to do for themselves

Angie Fusco: I think it compounds on so many issues Lon, I think it’s an extremely complex issue in this country, but I don’t think these issues or problems are going to go away any time soon

Lon Woodbury: We just have a couple of minutes left, could you give about a minute or so, and how is Auldern addressing these problems that you’ve just talked about?

Angie Fusco: So, I will tell you that the trends that I have been seeing with Auldern – and we spoke about it a little bit, is girls coming in that are having significant issues with depression, anxiety kids that are obviously having ADHD symptoms and executive processing, but two the relationship issues are synonymous with a lot of our kids struggling to make healthy connections, struggling to keep healthy connections. I would tell you also with our girls, you have the issues regarding social media and electronics that have touched all of them and their ability to manage not only their own identity formation through their relationships as they here have been impacted through electronics, but really just the relationships that they form, the healthiness of those relationships, the transparency, so at Auldern how we are addressing that – we expect a lot of our students, we expect them to be resilient, we expect them to be able to have experiences where they are empowered to think to act and obviously for us to be able to educate them when their thinking is probably not the most appropriate or their choices haven’t been productive and to really try and put kids in an environment that’s safe, secure but also allows them to experiment with making decisions and for us to sit back as almost the replacement adult figure and watch them and then when they make mistakes really try to give them opportunities to have psych – education to talk about their feelings freely, and then to give them options, and you know really what people need to know about kids today is it’s not all doom and gloom, these kids are creative, they’re exciting they have tonnes of ideas, and they’re just their vision of the world is so uniquely different than mine was, and so it’s exciting to see them, but with that being said I think we have rendered them incapable of because we are overly protective. And at Auldern it’s about keeping them safe but its about giving them opportunities to make mistakes and realising that our job is to partner with them through education and support so that they can become independent, resilient and capable.

Lon Woodbury: I think one of the things is, you’ve been sort of talking about is sense of community because you’re small, at your school and at successful schools – I think everybody knows everybody else very well, there are no strangers.

Angie Fusco: Right, right

Lon Woodbury: And If there is a stranger, that is the suspicious person, you know that’s in our genes, Dunbar Numbers goes into that abit as a fascinating topic but we’ve ran out of time, but we have run out of time, so if somebody wanted to talk to you more about this or hear about Auldern, what are the contact information, how would someone contact you, or the school?

Angie Fusco: So certainly, they could get online and learn about our school at and then they can call us at our admissions office and they can speak with Dr. Eileen Antalek and her phone number is (919) 837 – 1100

Lon Woodbury: Okay very good this is Lon Woodbury with the Woodbury report, we have been talking with Angie Fusco, the Executive Dir. of Auldern academy, a school for girls in North Carolina talking about, ‘’how are our kids doing’’ and it’s a complicated question and we could go on for a long time about this one issue! Okay, well thank you very much, good to have you Angie!

Angie Fusco: Thank you Lon, I’ve appreciated it!

[End of transcription 00:15:18]

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