Building resiliency and leadership skills in youth

HealthWatch

Now that the winter season is fully upon us and our snow days have begun to quickly pile up, you may begin to hear some common phrases that have been uttered by teenagers for generations. It usually goes something along the lines of, “I’m bored!” or “There is nothing to do around here!” Does this sound eerily familiar? Does it echo through the halls of your home? If not, count your blessings; but if so, we may have a solution for you, the teen, or teens in your life.

Consider the following questions. Would you like your teenager to spend less time on his or her phone, laptop, tablet, or video game console? Would you like them to experience nature in all of its glory, all while learning valuable life lessons and participating in hands-on learning? Would you like them to become a leader among their peers? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Dial Help’s Teen Outreach Program (TOP) may be just what you need.

The Teen Outreach Program, also known as TOP, is a free, after-school program that has just begun for all high school students across Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon counties. In each of these counties, a school has volunteered to host a TOP Club once a week. Currently Calumet High School (Mondays, starting February 11th), Ontonagon High School (Tuesdays), Houghton High School (Wednesdays), and Baraga High School (Thursdays) have generously offered space to be used for a TOP Club. During each weekly TOP Club meeting, students from the host school and any surrounding schools are offered the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and develop a clear vision of their future, all while in a safe and supportive environment.

Besides the weekly TOP Club meetings, students involved in a TOP Club will be able to participate in monthly group “challenges” that include activities such as ski school, kayaking, camping, hiking, rock climbing, and more! Opportunities like these not only build teamwork and leadership skills, but help students to engage in new and healthy experiences that could forever influence their wellness. Over the course of a TOP Club students will also learn to contribute to their communities through community service learning projects, which can be developed individually, as a TOP Club, or with other groups like the Houghton-Keweenaw Communities that Care (CTC) coalition.

Just like the CTC, TOP recognizes the struggles faced daily by teenagers and strives to build a safer and healthier community for all youth. The CTC has brought evidence-based programs, such as Botvin’s Life Skills Training, into the local schools to combat the rising issues of depressive symptoms and low perceived risk of harm from alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drug use. TOP not only builds upon the foundation established by these programs, but enhances the message by immersing the youth in memorable positive experiences. Through this involvement teenagers not only learn to avoid risky behaviors and develop essential tools for healthy living, but also build protective factors such as improved academic performance and prosocial involvement.

Although TOP Clubs are only currently available to high school students, Dial Help plans to expand the program to middle school students as well starting in September of 2019. For more information regarding the times and locations of our current and future TOP Clubs, please visit our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/DialHelpTOP/, or email us at teenoutreachprogram@dialhelp.org. TOP is made possible due to the generous funding of the Portage Health Foundation.

This article was written by Chris Schuldt, who is a Prevention Specialist at Dial Help, coordinator and facilitator of the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), and an active member of several local CTC workgroups. The CTC is always looking for community members who have an interest in the health and well-being of our area youth. If you would like to learn more about the CTC or are interested in becoming a member of a work group, please contact CTC coordinator Mary LeDoux at houghtonkeweenawctc@gmail.com or call Dial Help Inc. at 906-482-9077.

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