Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summertime and The Learnin’ is Easy (and Over)

Today's guest post is from Danni Biondini, MA, Behavioral Health Counselor at RAMS who also serves as the Program Coordinator for the Summer Bridge program, which is an 8-week summer mentoring program for San Francisco high school students, designed "to promote awareness of psychological well-being and foster interest in the helping professions".
RAMS Summer Bridge has completed its fifth summer! A diverse group of youth, between the ages of 16-19, graduated from this MHSA-funded workforce development program. The program culminated in a graduation ceremony at California Institute of Integral Studies on Thursday, July 31st. The participants celebrated with their families, as well as RAMS staff/administration. Each of the 25 participants received a certificate of completion, as well as a stipend check for their involvement.

Over the course of the 8-week program, the participants learned about working in the field of Psychology and the helping professions. Through guest speakers and field trips, they met with licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and professional clinical counselors. One of the highlights of the program was the field trip to Psychiatric Emergency Services at San Francisco General Hospital, where the participants saw firsthand what it’s like to work in a psychiatric emergency room. Another participant cited visiting the RAMS Fu Yau Project as her favorite experience, since learning about preschool mental health consultation strengthened her resolve to become a child psychologist.

 Besides learning about the various paths to working in the mental health field, the participants were introduced to basic listening and counseling skills, ideas about stigma and the origins of mental illness, and strategies for practicing self-care. They presented final projects on some of the topics that interested them more, including: eating disorders, the intergenerational transmission of trauma.

The youth developed strong relationships with each other, with the three peer mentors, and with the three staff members. One of the most notable comments that the staff received was that
Summer Bridge was the only place some of these youth have ever felt comfortable to be themselves. 
More than just an opportunity to learn, this program provided a new template for social experiences with peers.

 Now, the participants will return to high school, or head off to college, with this new knowledge about steps to take for their futures. All participants are invited to join Youth Council, the youth advisory board for RAMS, which meets throughout the school year. After the program ended, Summer Bridge hosted an end-of-summer reunion for this year’s cohort to meet previous cohorts. To further build upon and sustain lasting relationships, Summer Bridge will host another reunion in the winter.

For more details about this program, visit http://www.ramsinc.org/summerbridge.html