Name of Innovative Program:
Solome Tibebu, Anxiety In Teens
Anxiety In Teens
Name of Innovative Program Lead:
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
As a teenager, I suffered from a severe anxiety disorder. There was no resource online to help me, so I created Anxiety In Teens, a place for youth with mental health disorders to find information, inspiration and community. Adapting the Learning-through-Service program from the University of St. Thomas, Anxiety In Teens has created a tested, unique model where college students engage in programming mental health events and offering peer-focused advice online for younger teens regarding issues they had once experienced themselves. Completely college student-run events, such as the Finals Week Stress Relief Event and the Girls Overcome Anxiety Weekends, are truly unique opportunities for teens to learn skills for mental wellness. I have gained national recognition for my work, including recipient of the SAMHSA FFCMH Youth MOVE National Dare to Dream Award, MACMH “Outstanding Service” Award, and placing 1st in division of the largest statewide business competition in the nation.
Creativity and Innovation:
Innovation is two-fold: college students can develop empathy skills while actually making a difference in youths' lives through Anxiety In Teens. The college service learners recognize their own mental health histories and their knowledge of social media tools and project management skills merge to provide them a genuine opportunity to serve others. There is finally a place where teens can connect and know that they are not alone in their struggle. These much-needed, special events give students the opportunity to learn the skills needed to develop careers in both for- and non-profit sectors (marketing, fundraising, etc.). Applying the technological skills I gained from AiT, I developed a patent-pending clinical mental health technology for patients and providers called Cognific. The pilot trial is currently live at PrairieCare, the largest independent psychiatric hospital in the Midwest. I embrace my experience as an anxious teenager to bring mental healthcare to the 21st century.
While acknowledging the hard work and tedious preparation that go into creating youth-focused, college student-run events, the primary challenge is finding the courage to say those first three words: "Let's do it!" Throughout my undergraduate experience, I have encouraged and helped more than forty college students through the Anxiety In Teens Learning-through-Service program. First I listen to the students to understand their strengths and career interests as we jointly decide what project(s) they will manage. Then we work in partnership to execute their plans. These two distinct steps ensure our most successful programming. Students who participate in these projects have leveraged the skills they have obtained through Anxiety In Teens to secure meaningful work after college. Some have even been inspired to start their own non-profits in healthcare or youth services.
Sustainability can be easily maintained through partnerships with higher education. The Anxiety In Teens Learning-Through-Service program offers college credit for students and service learning is rapidly becoming an important pedagogy in the college classrooms as indicated by such accrediting agencies as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Anxiety In Teens engages students in this out-of-classroom learning approach which helps achieve curricular learning objectives. The model can be implemented at colleges and universities across the nation at minimal costs. The Anxiety In Teens program is sustained primarily through income from events that are integrated to the very nature of the program, such as the OutRun Anxiety 5K/10K and Wellness Expo. And finally, sponsorships from area businesses and other non-profits are forthcoming because of their desire to address the quality of mental health in our community.
The Learning-Through-Service model is easily replicated in other settings around the nation, and we are excited to create a platform for students nationwide to help other teens with similar issues. Initiatives such as our Girls’ Overcome Anxiety Weekend can be implemented in other regions, and there are girls across the nation with anxiety who could use the unique, hands-on programming at the youth level. As a mental health advocate, I have spread the word about Anxiety In Teens and mental health in youth within classrooms, conferences and even a TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PcdRyB8YJY. As a youth social entrepreneurship speaker through organizations such as Ashoka, I have presented workshops locally and nationally on helping other students discover their strengths and carry out a plan to make a difference.
Outcomes of Anxiety In Teens need to be measured along two dimensions. First, are the end users of the website and the participants in the programming events benefitting from their connection with Anxiety In Teens? Secondly, are the college students charged with learning through their involvement with this program, meeting their academic objectives? The measurement of the impact upon users of our services can be taken on several levels, including attendance at our programs and online visits as well as expert contributor engagement. Assessment as to the Outcomes for the college students involved will also take place via several avenues. We have adopted measurements tools from the University of St. Thomas Office of Service Learning to determine students’ development in several critical areas, including acceptance of differences, increased comfort with diversity, ambiguity and self-directed learning, enhanced communication, decision-making and leadership skills, etc.