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Building mental health and wellness capacity for central Alberta students

Red Deer Advocate - 3/8/2019

Two influential projects through Alberta Health Services are making a difference for Chinook's Edge students.

The division was successful in receiving funding for a Mental Health Capacity Building (MHCB) Expansion project to double the scope of a program which has been running in Olds and Didsbury for nearly 10 years.

The funding allows the successful YES program (Youth Empowerment and Support) to expand to Bowden, Spruce View, Delburne and Elnora, using the same model of preventative mental health supports and activities for Chinook's Edge students in these school communities.

"Only 18 school divisions in the province were successful in their application for this funding," said Marcie Perdue, associate superintendent of student services.

Stats show that over 1,500 students have been impacted in Olds and Didsbury through the original YES program, which also runs over the summer. It involves four success coaches who design activities, lead group work, coordinate efforts with community agencies, and share resources through the schools involved.

The expanded program will be delivered in a similar manner, with four success coaches expected to be in place over the summer and ready to start next school year.

"We've seen what happens when students cultivate these powerful connections at school – it leads to success in school," said Perdue, whose professional associations also led to the second project.

The 'Wellness Exchange for Children' pilot project is also delivered through Alberta Health Services and involves students at Elnora School. The curriculum is being developed by The AHS Mental Health Promotion and Illness Prevention team.

The six week project equips students and staff with many skills from managing reactions and building stronger connections with one another, to training their brains to pay attention to all the good things happening around them.

"This is a huge opportunity for us, because our school is rural and quite isolated so we don't have these types of resources nearby," said Elnora principal Jocelyn Pennock. "Our staff is part of this, too, so they can revisit the lessons often and call upon the techniques long after the program is done. It's really increasing the atmosphere of trust and belonging in our school."

 
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