Students and stress: raising awareness

Students get ready for class at Northside Catholic Assumption Academy.

Stress and anxiety is not just a grownup problem—it affects young students and needs to be addressed and handled well, according to a counselor in a Pittsburgh Catholic elementary school.

“There is a need to increase awareness and minimize the stigma,” Kacy Ruffin told Father Tom Burke on Catholic Education Plus. “The ways we address stress and anxiety is pivotal. Providing coping skills are critical.”

Ruffin was hired this school year at Northside Catholic Assumption Academy in Pittsburgh’s Brighton Heights neighborhood, thanks to support from the Extra Mile Education Foundation. She strongly supports social-emotional learning, reminding students that “they may be facing challenges, but they have God-given ability.”

Catholic Education Plus airs Sunday Dec. 5 at 6:30 a.m. on KDKA-AM. Following the broadcast the show will be available at:

Ruffin appears on the show with principal Rosanne Kwiatkowski and preschool teacher Amanda Zieger, who works with three-year olds. She said they’re transitioning more easily into kindergarten after two years in preschool.

“I’m a big advocate for early learning,” Zieger said. “I see them more prepared for kindergarten.”

“They also have more confidence and love to be challenged,” Kwiatkowski added. “Families are also benefiting from Catholic education by staying with us longer.”

Northside Catholic Assumption Academy began as Saint Cyril’s School in 1930, run by the Sisters of Mercy. A kindergarten was added in 1948, and as enrollment grew, a new school was built in 1967.

The name was changed to Northside Catholic in 2011, then the school merged with Assumption in Bellevue in 2018. That’s also when it began receiving support from the Extra Mile Education Foundation to help low-income minority students.

Plans are underway for an open house at Northside Catholic Assumption Academy during Catholic Schools Week starting January 30.