Supporting the mental health of kids and teens is more important than ever, and the Boys & Girls Club of Cheyenne is thrilled to offer these crucial services through a new Social and Emotional Wellness pilot program in partnership with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming Caring Foundation and the University of Wyoming Division of Social Work.
The Club offers a whole-child approach to youth development, with a focus in the three core areas of Academic Success, Character & Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles.
Within the Club’s health and wellness programs, youth are provided with the framework to engage in positive behaviors that nurture their well-being, set personal goals, and grow into self-sufficient adults.
Youth learn how to move their bodies and stay active in Triple Play, eat nutritious and well-balanced meals in Healthy Habits, and now have the opportunity to develop mindfulness and resiliency skills through the Social and Emotional Wellness program.
To implement this brand new Social and Emotional Wellness program, which launched in the fall of 2021, the Club welcomed University of Wyoming Master of Social Work student Jamie Vargas onto the youth development team.
Jamie, who will be joined by additional students later in the program, works directly with members at all three sites to help them identify and understand their feelings, learn the necessary skills to change their thinking from destructive to constructive, and incorporate mindfulness techniques into their everyday lives.
Jamie offers the Social and Emotional Wellness program on a weekly basis, and she looks forward to meeting the unique needs of Club members while helping them develop a platform for lifelong mental health and well-being.
“Emotional wellness is crucial and something that is not taught enough. Through this program, we are working to equip kids with simple, effective skills and coping mechanisms they can rely on when dealing with difficult emotions and situations,” said Jamie.
This program provides UW students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and complete their field practicum, while also utilizing their skills in support of the youth that need us most.
Each student continues to build their knowledge and expertise through classes and mentoring with social work professionals.
From there, they can translate their learnings into the Club setting as they develop an accessible and engaging Social and Emotional Wellness curriculum.
As a key partner in the Club’s wellness initiatives, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming Caring Foundation has supported the Healthy Habits program since 2015, as well as a recent suicide prevention initiative for Boys & Girls Club throughout the state.
The Caring Foundation continues to serve as an advocate for accessible and high-quality mental health resources, with an emphasis on helping kids learn to manage their emotions and build resiliency from an early age.
“The Caring Foundation is committed to helping children and families get the mental health care they need,” said Diane Gore, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming. “One approach is to improve access through this new partnership, and we hope to change the conversation around mental health by helping our youth obtain the resources they need to flourish at home, at school, and in the community.”
The need for these emotional wellness resources is immense, as the Club sees youth struggling with personal challenges and uncertainties on a daily basis, leaving them feeling overwhelmed, lost and isolated.
Whether it be their family’s safety, ability to cope with a caregiver fighting addiction, peer pressure at school, or other concerns for their future, local youth face problems beyond their years.
Many of these challenges have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as our low income and vulnerable members continue to face the greatest financial and emotional burdens.
In addition, mental health resources outside of the Club can be costly, have extensive waitlists, or be generally inaccessible for parents who work during the day or lack reliable transportation.
Through this new program, the Club strives to close the mental health gap and ensure that all youth have access to the care they need.
The program directly benefits Club members, while also fostering the next generation of mental health professionals who will soon be prepared to offer their much-needed services within the community.
“I have talked to countless Club families and witnessed firsthand the need for mental health resources within our community. It is crucial that we connect youth with someone they can talk to about their frustrations, while also helping them build coping skills and awareness of their own feelings,” said Justin Pendleton, Boys & Girls Club of Cheyenne CEO. “The Club is grateful to have partners like The Caring Foundation and UW that are dedicated to both the mental and physical health of our youth.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming will also be implementing a Social and Emotional Wellness pilot program for youth in Casper and the surrounding areas.
Together, the Wyoming Boys & Girls, along with The Caring Foundation and UW, look forward to offering this unique pilot program and creating a Club culture that values mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and positive mental health practices.