By Tiffany Harper, Courier & Press, January 30, 2018 –
My favorite program to facilitate as a Youth First Social Worker is Reconnecting Youth (RY). This program is taught in a high school classroom setting and is co-facilitated by Youth First Social Workers and trained teachers. It hones in on three major components in a student’s life: school achievement, mood management, and drug and alcohol control.
To improve school achievement students are taught strategies to raise grades, improve attendance, and demonstrate a better attitude in the classroom.
To assist with mood management students are taught coping strategies and encouraged to share their struggles with one another in order to combat issues such as depression and anxiety.
To reduce drug and alcohol involvement, they are encouraged to place themselves in sober environments, use refusal skills, and set goals to reduce or abstain from substance use.
In the RY classroom an atmosphere is created so students can feel welcome, bond with others who may or may not have similar life experiences, and learn major life lessons that can be applied in their everyday lives.
Students are encouraged to set goals on a daily basis in an effort to improve life success. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to be involved with this evidence-based program.
Students express the most appreciation for the portion of the class called “shared agenda,” during which students share struggles and successes with each other and offer support and encouragement.
A student from class this year made some heartfelt statements during the class graduation ceremony that illustrate its direct impact on student growth and functioning:
“Sophomore year I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after making a second suicide attempt. I felt ashamed to be depressed and I felt so different from everyone else, but in reality I wasn’t. To me RY was a safe haven, a place I finally felt like I belonged. I learned I wasn’t so different. I remember walking in on the first day thinking ‘I don’t think I belong here,’ but boy was I wrong! My classmates taught me that being sad was okay and that there is no shame in asking for help. I learned how different our lives are and even how similar. I gained friends I thought I’d never have and even some self confidence! I finally realized how precious life was, especially mine…I know that going forth in life I will be a much stronger person thanks to this program. RY taught me to love and appreciate myself and every little thing in life and that is something I will never forget.”
As teens navigate through challenges in their lives, Reconnecting Youth can provide support, bonding, and encouragement to make healthy lifestyle choices and good decisions. You can find more information on Reconnecting Youth and Youth First’s other programs at youthfirstinc.org.