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Upcoming summer youth camp planned

The pandemic has certainly changed the normal routine for many people, and youth have been especially effected. Taking classes online, at home, has brought about a distinct change in the amount of face-to-face interaction that young people have.

With plans still unknown for the fall, many youth may become even more depressed. Johns Hopkins University has recently conducted a research study that shows just how disruptive social distancing and the interruption of school routines can be for youth.

Development of social skills and a sense of identity are two important developmental tasks of adolescents. Disconnection from peers and social outlets makes it very difficult for young people during these challenging times. Moreover, fear of the unknown can cause or exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

The Washington County Behavioral Health Board in collaboration with Building Bridges to Careers, The Marietta Community Foundation, Sisters Health Foundation, and HPAC are organizing a summer camp for high school students as a part of a Students Solving Problems (SSP) program.

The Students Solving Problems initiative began about a year ago when a group of teens and adults attended the Ohio Teen Institute (OTI) at Heidelberg University. This week-long program helped students develop the skills to become a positive leader within their schools and communities.

Students became equipped with the knowledge and abilities to not only make positive choices for themselves, but also to encourage their peers to make healthy decisions.

Students who attended this program last June returned to Washington County and to their respective schools with ideas to help build healthy communities within the schools.

HPAC, which stands for Health Professionals Affinity Community, was already in existence at many Washington County schools. The goal of this program is to promote community health and student success by empowering students to implement health projects in their communities.

HPAC program supports students as they identify pressing health concerns in the community, develop a program with community resources to address the health concern, enact the program with partners and resources, and assess the impact of the program on the community.

Realizing that HPAC and the goals of OTI were similar, the decision was made to combine the efforts under the umbrella of SSP or Students Solving Problems.

The overall goal of SSP is to equip students with healthy behaviors and positivity to combat substance abuse and mental health issues in youth and teens, while also promoting careers in the health, behavioral health and philanthropy fields.

Over the last year high school students across Washington County have been involved in a variety of efforts that underscore healthy behaviors and promote leadership development. For example, students at Frontier High School and the Washington County Career Center participated in Red Ribbon Week, a week of activities to demonstrate the importance of living a drug-free life.

Several schools put together a positive reinforcement/self-esteem building campaign that involved putting positive messages around the school and identifying youth who needed extra support.

Marietta High School students put together a proposal and reached out to SSP to help them support the use of a specially trained dog.

Since the pandemic interrupted some of the schools’ plans and OTI has been canceled for 2020, the Washington County community stakeholders involved in SSP have put together a summer camp to demonstrate the value of making healthy choices and underscoring the importance of serving as youth leaders in our community.

A variety of activities are planned for the three-day camp on July 20-22 including: yoga, hiking, behavioral health careers panel, philanthropy activity, programs to promote diversity, self-care, providing referrals and resources to their school populations.

For more information on the camp, including how to register, IT’S FREE — please contact, Suzy Zumwalde, BB2Careers, szumwalde@buildingbridgestocareers.org.

Hilles Hughes is the deputy director for the Washington County Behavioral Health Board.

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