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United Way Youth Venture at Mount Wachusett Community College Receives Youth Mental/Behavioral Health Grant

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts (UWNCM) has granted the Mount Wachusett Community College United Way Youth Venture (UWYV) program with a grant of $10,000 to address mental and behavioral health issues experienced by young people throughout the North Central region of Massachusetts.

The UWYV program is a partnership between the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Mount Wachusett Community College and Ashoka’s Youth Venture. The program exists to empower youth through support for innovative, community outreach proposals and help them gain essential experience that will help them to become future leaders and innovators of our community.

The UWYV will utilize grant funds to provide a trauma-informed environment for youth of all backgrounds to direct their passion and skills to solve community problems initially perceived as outside of their control or ability. The grant will fund new part-time UWYV staff to meet the capacity needed to carry out the program initiatives within Fitchburg, Gardner, and Winchendon during the 2023 – 2024 school year.

“The ultimate goal of this multi-phased effort is to expand capacity, providing UWYV approaches and resources to educators,” notes Lauren Mountain, UWYV Director. “These programs have shown that with a little creativity and a lot of empathy, our community can holistically support our youth.”

“As the 2022-2023 school year progressed, it became obvious that students and teachers are struggling with their own and others’ mental health challenges at higher levels than before,” Mountain continued. “And in the midst of this troubling observation, the smallest wins made such a difference, a bright spot and a reminder of our potential as a community to fully thrive. UWYV is a supplier of wins and many bright spots for our youth.”

One of the key components of this grant program will be helping racially diverse participants develop self-efficacy and leadership skills to bring back to their respective communities and schools. The programming will teach students how to engage stakeholders to make change while also providing students a voice in designing their service project. While program staff will serve as guides in the process, students will be the voice in selecting the challenges and solutions which will be presented. By designing and implementing their own project, they will be leaving the program with the tools necessary to advocate for other changes they see as valuable to themselves and their community.