Aspen Youth Center to Launch Mental Health Series | New
As the town of Aspen works to highlight mental health resources and training in the Roaring Fork Valley, several local youth-focused organizations continue to provide resources to children in need of support.
City officials have said at recent council meetings that Aspen is fortunate to have a multitude of resources and activities available in town for young people. One of these resources is the Aspen Youth Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a safe and supportive place where young people can connect, learn and grow during their extra-curricular hours. The youth center offers services such as art and cooking classes, outdoor activities and free access to recreational facilities for children thanks to donations from the community.
Although the center is located at the Aspen Recreation Center, it is not a city or school run program. However, the youth center supports young people on a daily basis and has partnered with various local organizations and individuals to offer even more services as the New Year approaches.
“We are often ignored because a lot of people think we are part of the city, but we are not. A lot of people think we are babysitters, and yes, we take care of the children, but we are not, ”said Executive Director Michaela Idhammar. “But that being said, I think there is so much cool stuff that isn’t as important, not just at the youth center.”
In collaboration with junior Andie Sherman of Aspen High School, the youth center is hosting a weekly peer-to-peer discussion as part of the Brain Power Project, a program created and led by Sherman with the help of a team of psychologists and of doctors at Denver Children’s Hospital. The program teaches teens how to have what Sherman calls the six most important conversations teens can have with their friends, family, themselves, and everyone around them.
“It’s about being open and learning more about yourself and not letting the discomfort keep you from expressing yourself,” Sherman said. “What really turns me on is that I’ve gotten to the point where I feel very comfortable talking about my mental health. There should never be a stigma around mental health. I hope that through my experience and this program, it can help to destigmatize it for a person. “
The six conversations focus on topics such as how to let someone know when you are not feeling well, how to stand up for their rights and say ‘no’, and how to apologize. Sherman and his friends are in the process of videotaping all six discussions so that they are easily accessible to anyone anywhere on a website, which Sherman hopes to launch next spring so that classrooms, families and individuals across Colorado can use them.
“These are best practice tips,” Sherman said. “They are vetted and come from real doctors who know what they are saying. It’s not just me who invented it.
Idhammar said she is incredibly proud of Sherman and the project, but the resources don’t end there. The youth center is also a partner of the Aspen Learning Center and provides space, computers and fundraising assistance for academic tutoring. The learning center has four tutors – plus a California-based SAT tutor – who provide academic support to students of all ages and meet individual and family needs. The learning center also offers help with organizational and planning skills, social and emotional skills, impulse control and information processing skills.
“I think of it as a tree,” said co-founder and tutor Julie Friedman. “If the roots aren’t growing properly, these are the areas we need to target first before the branches can grow, before the kids can be successful in their studies. “
The Learning Center accepts donations on its website that go directly to providing financial assistance to students who otherwise would not be able to afford private tuition. Anyone in need of financial assistance can visit aspen-learningcenter.com to find contact details. The learning center and the youth center together determine the assistance that families can claim.
Friedman said the partnership has been mutually beneficial since it began just under a year ago.
“If they see a child in need, they can refer him to us,” she said. “All of us guardians have all been in the world of public education, and it is so important for all of us to be able to provide services to all children. “
The youth center also collaborates with Shakes strong to launch a series of workshops for teens called “Mood and Food”. The workshops will educate children and their parents on how what we eat affects the way we feel. The sessions will be led by local nutritionist Shari Houvard, who will talk to the children as they prepare meals and cook food that the students can then take home.
“They will be talking about fad diets that destroy myths, how food affects our feel, food and then exercise,” Idhammar said. “This stuff affects us. Doing it or not, doing it right or wrong, or doing too much affects us.
The workshops will be open to children aged 13-18 and registration is open by visiting the youth center or texting 805-705-6600. The first workshop will take place on January 12, the second on January 26 and the third on February 10. For the fourth and final workshop, parents are encouraged to attend (with their child) on February 24. .
Aspen Strong Executive Director Angilina Taylor added that Aspen Strong is implementing more workshops to support youth mental well-being throughout the year and will partner with Aspen Youth Center on future offers. Details will be announced later.
In the coming weeks, the youth center will also publish more information on a series of mental health first aid courses for adults, adolescents and young children. Classes will be delivered in conjunction with MindSprings Health and Pitkin County. Idhammar said anyone interested in participating should stay tuned for more details.