Engaging Hearts and Minds
The heart of the Volunteer Center’s work has always involved listening to the community. This allows us to bring everyone together "at the heart of helping" to address unmet needs. When we began interviewing community members in 2017 to improve our current programs and learn the critical needs currently facing our community, we never imagined the crisis we would find.
The Challenges Facing Today’s Youth
The generation born after 1995, known as Gen Z or iGen, is navigating uncharted territory as digital natives, and they are facing an unprecedented increase in stress, anxiety, depression and suicide that began in 2012. Meanwhile, they show a significant decrease in empathy and resilience, which greatly concerns us, since the Volunteer Center has been bringing the community together through acts of kindness and compassion for more than 50 years.
We’ve spent two years intensely researching the reasons for this crisis - from gathering local and national data to asking the community for input - and the results are abundantly clear. Our community believes that the youth mental health crisis is the result of excessive screen time and social media addiction, combined with the inescapable pressure to be perfect at all costs. Click here to learn more.
Listening to the Community
We know screens are here to stay and they have many benefits, but they’ve taken over our lives. Our community revealed that:
- Youth are desperate for healthy ways to cope with their feelings.
- Parents are at their wit’s end, constantly fighting about screen time.
- Universities and human resource professionals are overwhelmed by the needs of struggling youth.
- The culture of perfection and stigma associated with mental health keeps many families from opening up and asking for help.
- Those that do are frustrated by insurance barriers and a shortage of available mental health practitioners.
We listened to our community, just as we always have, and we used the input to research and develop a community-based program to address these needs. We’re calling it Engaging Hearts and Minds.
Engaging Hearts and Minds combines three new strategies with updates to our existing programs - all designed to compassionately support community members, so we can look up, re-connect, empathize with each other, build resilience, express emotions and practice self-care. Our Board of Directors is passionate about this new focus. They’ve shown a commitment to it by updating our mission to "encourage and support social and emotional wellness for youth and families in our community."
Click here to learn more about our new teen program, Connecting IRL (In Real Life). Applications are now available and due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10!
Making an Impact Together
The annual program cost for Engaging Hearts and Minds - including materials, outreach, evaluation and support staff - is approximately $1,000,000, and we need your generous support, so we can reach more than 10,000 youth and families each year!
Few organizations are addressing this crisis by encouraging families to reduce screen time and increase face-to-face connections, empathy and resilience. As we make a significant, measurable impact in our community, we can create a replicable structure for other communities.
We are asking for your investment now, so together, we can help our community reconnect with each other amidst this new, screen-focused reality and improve the mental, social and emotional health of our community’s next generation.