Lorain County, Ohio, April, 2016 – An effort that started with just 61 students is intended to make a lasting impact on six local middle schools. As part of the “You Belong” program funded by mini-grants from the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, youth leaders and teacher mentors are proposing school practices or policies to improve the sense of belonging and safety experienced by students.
“The ‘You Belong’ program lets young people make creative decisions that will promote a positive school culture, and develop new initiatives that can be left as a legacy to future middle school students,” says Charles Neff, Executive Director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health.
Youth leaders from Amherst Junior High, Brookside Middle School in Sheffield-Sheffield Lake, Eastern Heights Middle School in Elyria, General Johnnie Wilson Middle School in Lorain, Longfellow Middle School in Lorain, and Midview Middle School in Grafton launched the program by participating in team-building and leadership training.
Neff notes that positive school culture and a feeling of belonging contribute to a child’s overall health. “You Belong” targets social isolation, which is a risk factor for youth. Additionally, the initiative is designed to promote connections between middle schools students, allowing them to develop a resilience factor that buffers students from the development or exacerbation of mental health symptoms.
“It’s great to work on something that can make a difference, where we, the students, can affect and stop bullying and work to make sure no student here ever wants to hurt themselves or others,” says Jacob Smith, a “You Belong” youth leader and 7th grade student at Midview.
Each school received a $2,500 award from the Board for the 2015-2016 school year for expenses like staff time, transportation, and supplies.
To learn more about this program, contact Dr. Kathleen Kern, Associate Director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, at [email protected]
The Lorain County Board of Mental Health is the local public agency that plans, funds, monitors, and evaluates a system of services for residents with mental illness in Lorain County.