Our partner SafeSpace schools come together several times a year to share ideas on teen mental health, learn about the challenges and successes implementing school mental health initiatives and provide guidance for our students with their school initiatives. During the most recent meeting, Castilleja presented Peer First Responder (PFR), a student-led program that focuses on teaching counseling skills to natural caregivers wishing to act as resources to their peers. The program creates a more understanding conversation about mental health on campus and helps develop a safer community on campus to give students a new way to reach out for help.
In our short 18 months of operations, we are already amazed at the difference our teens have made in the community among their peers, and within their own lives, Four of our seniors wrote about their SafeSpace experience in their college applications. Each discovered a new part of themselves or uncovered something missing. Regardless, they carry their efforts with them, knowing that working together for something they believe in actually makes a difference. There is no greater lesson we could send them off with.
We are documenting our process in an effort to share our model with other communities in the country. We already have serious interest from areas such as Pasadena, CA, Denver, CO, and Danbury, CT. While this interest is encouraging, we remain focused on making our efforts here a success first and foremost. There is nothing better than watching these young people find their passion and channel it into a better world for themselves and their peers.