A Positive Space for Conversation

by Anita Brown, Program Officer

Last spring, PVF piloted an After School Clubs grant program in Solano County, providing $2,000 grants for student-initiated after school clubs around community service ideas. (This program is made possible with funding from the Frank H. and Eva B. Buck Foundation.)

We awarded a grant to Jesse Bethel High School, where Ina Bendich, Coordinator of the Youth Justice Program, helped the students brainstorm and write their proposals.

One group of students wanted to start a wellness club—and host it in a warm, inviting place with a couch, carpet, plants, and soft music. “We would like to use an empty classroom and remodel it into a center where students feel welcomed to come and talk to us when they aren’t having a good day, or need someone to talk to, there will be help provided there. Our goal is to make students realize they are not alone,” the students wrote in their proposal. “We hope to get training for teachers to deal with trauma, depression, and anxiety…. In addition to providing teachers with more skills to support students, we envision our center as a place where students can meet and provide support for each other both during the school day and after school.”

Ina commented, “This really excites me because so many students are struggling to manage their social/emotional health. I’ve seen the power of circle to create a positive space for conversation, and the students that are working on this project are all trained in restorative justice practices.”

We gave Jesse Bethel High School a grant to purchase items such as floor pillows, a media console, a music player and soft music CDs, candles, and fragrance oils. In addition to these funds, the school accessed other funds and donations to obtain other items, such as large carpets, plants, a tri-fold screen, other pillows, and decorative pieces. A student also donated some books and hand-made items.

This year, we saw the Wellness Room get completed: “The grand opening was last night and the students received rave reviews on the look and feel of the room…. This is truly a community project and the students and adults that have supported the Wellness Room have a lot to be proud of as the real work of providing support to students begins. We look forward to utilizing the room for students experiencing stress, and given the floor space, there was discussion last night about creating a yoga/meditation club that could include more students,” said Ina.

With the success of this pilot, PVF is excited to officially launch the After School Club grant program in Solano County middle schools and high schools in the fall.

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