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Students at Foulks Ranch Elementary School in the Elk Grove Unified School District are learning to communicate and understand their emotions and feelings through the Ayo! CONNECT program provided by the Sarafian Foundation.

Everyone comes from their own unique background that is filled with stories. Some stories are shared with others, while others are kept hidden due to attached stigmas or social norms. Issues that may involve mental health are often hard to discuss, especially for students who may have difficulties opening up about events at home or at school which can affect their overall wellness. One school in Elk Grove, Foulks Ranch Elementary, is tackling this issue head on with their pioneering efforts in mental wellness.

Karen Sarafian is a parent and a teacher at Foulks Ranch. She observed the need for mental health and wellness resources in the schools and community around her and her family. To respond to this need, Ms. Sarafian and her son established the Sarafian Foundation to provide low- or no-cost wellness programs and connections to resources in the EGUSD community.  

Starting as a pilot program in partnership with administrators, staff, students and families at Foulks Ranch Elementary School, the Sarafian Foundation has sought to provide instruction and practice in social emotional learning competency. The goal is to teach the skills necessary for wellness so that students are prepared to address the current and additional challenges they may face in middle and high school.

The current program at Foulks Ranch, in conjunction with the Sarafian Foundation, Ayo! CONNECT, aims to say “Ayo!” (the Armenian word for “yes”) to connecting to feelings, relationships and learning for wellness. Twelve after-school classes focused on social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and relationship skills are available to third to fifth graders, and instruction is balanced with activities where students can put their learning into practice with others. 

Based on survey responses and direct parent and student feedback, Ayo! CONNECT is helping students articulate their feelings and utilize strategies for communication, problem-solving and more. The Sarafian Foundation also collaborates closely with administrators, teachers and parents/guardians to connect students and families with additional school and community resources when needed. Founder Karen Sarafian says, “We are constantly evaluating and refining the program to meet the needs of our students, families and schools,” and she has plans to expand this amazing program to additional EGUSD schools in the future.

For additional information, visit, email, or call 916-684-8957.

About the Elk Grove Unified School District

The Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD) is the fifth-largest school district in California located in southern Sacramento County. EGUSD covers 320 square miles and includes 67 schools: 42 elementary schools, nine middle schools, nine high schools, five alternative education schools, an adult school, one charter school and a virtual academy. Offering a multitude of educational programs, including over 70 career-themed academies and pathways within 15 industry sectors, we prepare our students for college and career by supporting them with the means to be creative problem solvers; self-aware, self-reliant and self-disciplined; technically literate; effective communicators and collaborators; and engaged in the community as individuals with integrity. We integrate rigorous academics with career-based learning and real world workplace experiences and ensure that Every Student is Learning, in Every Classroom, in Every Subject, Every Day to Prepare College, Career and Life Ready Graduates.

For more information about the Elk Grove Unified School District, please visit and follow us @ElkGroveUnified on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Media Contact
Company Name: Elk Grove Unified School District
Contact Person: Xanthi Pinkerton
Email: Send Email
Phone: Mobile: +1 (916) 261-6219 | Office: (916) 686-7732 | Fax: (916) 686-7787
Address:9510 Elk Grove-Florin Road
City: Elk Grove
State: CA 95624
Country: United States