By Heather Ward and Laurie Herrick
Summer 2021, one that will definitely go down in history as one to remember.
Youth in Carteret and Long Branch were able to have some normalcy in their return to "normal" summer days, after spending summer 2020 in lock down.
This year marked a return to camp, outdoor sports clubs, and other summer activities that were missed the previous year. Wellspring Center for Prevention was ecstatic to get back into a couple school districts and work with the youth as well.
Carteret School District bought youth together for academic engagement as well as some fun activities through various presentations during July. Wellspring was able to visit each of the three elementary schools, Nathan Hale, Columbus, and Minue, three times with presentations and activities based off the Life Skills Training program. Some of the things we were able discuss with the youth were feelings and how to express ourselves without putting others down, how to recognize stress in our bodies and how to handle it so we can go about our days, and how to make the best decisions for ourselves. Of all the activities we did together, the stress lesson seemed to resonate with the children. They were able to draw where in their bodies stress lingers and then discuss ways that could work for THEM as ways to deal with that stress. Wellspring was so glad that they were able to discuss this, especially coming out of almost 18 months of challenges COVID brought with it.
In Long Branch, Wellspring staff worked with students at Anastasia and Gregory Elementary Schools. The children were happy to have us conduct our lessons in person. When they would see us outside their classroom doors, they could not contain their excitement! Wellspring staff visited both elementary schools six times between July and August. We worked on some lessons and activities that were modeled after the Life Skills Training program. We talked about how important self-esteem is and things we can do to keep our self-esteem at a good level. Another lesson focused on decision making and reviewing our "decision traffic light" for the steps we can take to make the best decision. We also discussed the harmful effects of smoking on our bodies. However, their favorite activity was playing feelings charades. The students took turns acting out their feelings, while their classmates tried to guess.
Being able to return to in-person programs in the schools was a welcome change and a glimpse at getting back to pre-COVID routines. The youth were very attentive and engaged our activities and it was wonderful to see them interacting and working together!