Building resilience: Empowering youth through emotional wellness

The world throws a lot at kids these days. Social media pressures, academic anxieties, inequalities, the cycle of negative media and the lingering effects of the pandemic have created a landscape where supporting their emotional well-being is more crucial than ever. Their surroundings have created a barrage of stressors that can take a toll on their mental health. Today’s youth navigate a world far more complex than ever before.

The world throws a lot at kids these days. Fortunately, they have support at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Bay & Lakes Region.
The Emotional Wellness team (pictured left to right) consists of Corrin Applekamp (Licensed Therapist), Brooke Unrath (Senior Director of Emotional Wellness), Mason Naze (Youth Advocate) and Sydney Tlachac (Director of Emotional Wellness) and a partnership with Rawhide Counseling through a therapist in training.

Fortunately, at the heart of the Club experience lies a commitment to equipping young people with the skills needed to navigate life’s inevitable ups and downs. Boys & Girls Clubs of the Bay & Lakes Region understands the challenges kids face and has grown beyond the days of shooting hoops in the gym and making crafts. Today, emotional wellness is woven into daily programming to help kids feel more connected and supported. It is one of the many reasons why kids come to Club.

The moment a kid walks through our Clubhouse doors, they are greeted by caring staff who understand the importance of nurturing not just their minds, but also their hearts. Staff serve as role models and offer a listening ear to any kid who needs it.

One of the most powerful resources the Club offers is its Emotional Wellness team, which includes a licensed therapist, two social workers and a youth advocate. This team is trained to identify signs of emotional strain and guide kids through healthy coping mechanisms. They provide encouraging words, 1-on-1 counseling, case management services, behavioral interventions, social and emotional skill development, emotional and physical safety, unique individualized support and spaces to breathe and regulate emotions (Zen Dens) when life gets tough. Through their guidance, kids learn they are not alone. All around them are caring adults who believe in their potential and are invested in their future. In addition, the Emotional Wellness team will soon be growing, adding a social worker and two behaviorist/youth advocate positions that will focus on providing added mental wellness support for Green Bay youth.

For instance, Miss Corrin, the Club’s licensed therapist, impacts kids differently. She helps kids navigate through difficult times, even thoughts of not being here tomorrow. Weekly, she is responding to 7-8 suicidal ideations. Recently, Madison*, a 12-year-old, sought the services of Miss Corrin to talk through her emotions. She had fears and struggles that led to thoughts of self-harm and thoughts of not being alive. After building rapport and creating a safety plan, Madison often shares her new viewpoint on life as being bright, exciting, loving, and promising.

“Ms. Corrin showed me how to take care of myself. She opened my eyes to those around me that are loving and supportive,” said Madison.

Research has shown that Boys & Girls Clubs of the Bay & Lakes Region members demonstrate social-emotional competencies. A recent survey determined that 88 percent of youth have skills to cope with challenges, 95 percent try to help when they see people in need and 94 percent have an identified Club staff who cares about them.

Zen Den at the Hatch Center in Door County gives kids the space to breathe and regulate emotions.

Across the Bay & Lakes Region, within one of our three Clubhouses or 10 school-based sites, young people have a space to be themselves, free from judgment or expectation. Whether it’s participating in Creative Arts or STEM programming, learning how to make healthy meals or preparing for the workforce, every interaction is an opportunity to foster connection and belonging. Club members develop a strong sense of community, creating a network of support that extends beyond the Clubhouse walls.

Kids are empowered to overcome obstacles and navigate life’s uncertainties. They learn to identify and manage emotions, build healthy relationships, and develop resilience. Staff continue to adopt best practices to ensure kids feel connected as they combat stressors such as social isolation, disrupted routines and anxieties that take a toll on their mental health.

Growing up as a kid today isn’t easy, but they don’t have to do it alone. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Bay & Lakes Region provides a place where kids can be themselves, develop essential life skills and be supported as they face whatever life throws their way.

* Name changed for confidentiality

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