Thinking Big Creates Connections for Teens
YouthBridge awarded a $125,000 Think Big for Kids grant to the Wyman Center, allowing them to scale and replicate The Connection Project through their National Network, that currently reaches 22,000 teens nationwide. In a program Wyman president and CEO Claire Wyneken calls “timely,” concerns about high school students’ sense of belonging, personal safety, and rates of anxiety and depression are addressed by helping them build healthy, supportive connections with peers. “We’re seeing some very, very promising results in the areas of conflict resolution, social coping, and young people’s sense of belonging, but also in things like attendance, behavior, academics, and school climate,” said Wyneken, adding that teens who feel better, perform better.
Funding from Think Big for Kids, which supports out of the box thinking and innovative approaches, will allow this proven program to be scaled to their network of 55 partners across 30 states. “There’s no way we can get remotely close to the level of impact [on our own] as we can with our network and the support of this grant,” explained Wyneken. “We are incredibly grateful and excited to be a part of this.”
The Connection Project was developed through a research-practice partnership, another innovative element of the program, combining university research and the expertise of trained staff with real-time feedback from teens. Wyneken believes, “Doing these together is a breakthrough in how these types of programs can be developed in the future.”