For the past six months, this space has been devoted to informing readers about KidsMatter and its mission to build resilient kids who say “NO” to destructive choices and “YES” to endless possibilities. Since 2001, KidsMatter has been a prevention-based organization focused on the over-all development of kids, from their social, emotional and academic wellbeing.
In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a national advisory on the youth mental health crisis, outlining ways communities can provide support and solutions.
This month let me reflect on a recent interview when Dr. Murthy noted that mental health issues are not something we adults can solve by ourselves. Young people need to be a part of the solution. In May he held a Mental Health Youth Forum with young people at the White House. In addition, he has been participating in conversations around the U.S., including a virtual conversation held in April hosted by Representative Lauren Underwood at Neuqua Valley High School with a dozen students.
When local community leaders were developing plans and goals for KidsMatter 20 years ago, former Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall recommended including young people as leaders in KidsMatter. And the Senior High Board was formed to include students representing District 204 and District 203 high schools and area private high schools. This month we’ll welcome five new students to the Board and a newly-elected slate of officers.
Each year the KidsMatter Senior High Board works on leadership projects to support the mental health of their peers. Earlier this year, several KidsMatter Senior High Board members received their Teen Mental Health First Aid Certification in partnership with Linden Oaks and the Alive Center.
Most recently, with support of a grant from the DuPage Foundation, teens used that knowledge to develop six TikTok-style videos in partnership with NCTV17 and the Naperville Police Department. These videos will be shared at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. Topics include how to support a friend in need, ways officers can provide support, relaxation techniques, resources, and breathing tips.
According to the Search Institute’s research, empowerment is a key developmental asset. When young people serve our community, they feel we value their opinions. When they are given roles in the community, they have an opportunity to serve others, and they feel safe and respected. We are grateful for the students on the KidsMatter Senior High Board as well as the leadership and service they provide our community each year.