Youth as Leaders: A Powerful New Initiative

"This is the most confident I have ever felt. I said to myself, 'I’m really owning this!'"

"It improved my social skills with others."

"I felt more comfortable talking out loud in class."

"It definitely improved my mood a lot."

"It made me way more happy about going to school."

These student testimonials reflect exciting possibilities for our groundbreaking, new Youth Empowerment Project. Since 2008, we’ve trained thousands of adults to deliver to youth our evidence-based, trauma-informed curriculum, Beat the Odds®: Social and Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming. We wondered: why not train the youth themselves? Could this give under-resourced and vulnerable youth opportunities to develop leadership, agency, and empowerment, often not available to them? Could this be a gender- and culturally-inclusive way to meet the needs of these youth, who school counselors say are often not helped by talk therapy? Could pairing older and younger youth bring out the best in both groups, as observed in our fieldwork? Could this enable schools to help greater numbers of students learn to de-stress and manage feelings, take positive risks, express themselves, and connect more deeply with one another—in a back-door approach to mental health? 

After two successful pilot training of seventh graders working with fifth graders, we are going to team up with counselors from Long Beach Unified School District in training fifth graders to work with third graders.  As a result of burgeoning interest from our first pilot there last spring, the district has arranged for us to give a full-day training to 50 of its mental health professionals on January 31.  We have been particularly thrilled to discover that our Youth Empowerment Project attracts diverse student participation.

Click here to view a December 18 Santa Monica Daily Press article about our two successful pilot deliveries.

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