Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

February 2022

YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs Launch Project to Support Youth Mental Health

YMCA of the USA and Boys & Girls Clubs of America are partnering to benefit the mental health and emotional well-being of young people and the staff who serve them. Using $375,000 in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Schools, the project will explore ways to strengthen trauma-informed approaches in out-of-school-time (OST) environments.

The partnership comes as the Surgeon General recently highlighted the urgent need to address the nation's youth mental health crisis. This project in the next six months will bring together national thought leaders and local practitioners to influence a path forward.

"Growing up can be hard on a young person of any generation, but today's kids and teens are facing an ever-evolving pandemic, continued racial inequality, social pressures online and systemic inequities that create barriers to success," said Jennifer Bateman, senior vice president, Youth Development at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "In partnership with peers like Y-USA and other out-of-school-time providers, we look forward to elevating solutions and practices to support a positive future for millions of youth."

To identify and amplify best practices and innovations, Y-USA and Boys & Girls Clubs of America will focus on two key areas. First, a national coalition of multisectoral organizations will convene to pinpoint crucial needs and gaps in the field, recognize strategies and explore opportunities to collaborate. Second, a speaker series will launch, with leaders and practitioners from Ys and Boys & Girls Clubs, to share experiences and resources. The speaker series will present findings to the coalition, who will then start developing a plan to improve the emotional well-being of youth and staff in OST environments.

As the nation's two largest youth-serving organizations and providers of after-school and summer meals, Y-USA and Boys & Girls Clubs of America have firsthand experience helping youth build resiliency, social-emotional skills, and supportive relationships, all of which contribute to positive mental health.

"Youth who experience adverse childhood experiences—including food insecurity—face poorer health and educational outcomes," said Elena Rocha, senior director of Youth Development Partnerships and Policy, Y-USA. "This is why it's so important that the Y and other youth-serving organizations employ compassionate and dedicated after-school and summer staff who are trained to support mental health and respond accordingly to trauma."

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