GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth is kicking off a new program to help kids focus on their mental health.
Officials say that 90 percent of the kids they serve are of color and 64 percent of them are African American. With the coronavirus and systemic racism disproportionately affecting the Black community, the club wants to help with its new Be You Wellness program.
“I have been to the protests, most of the protests downtown,” said Myaja Dunning, a six-year member of the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids. “It’s important for me to go to the protests because I feel like if they’re my people, even if they’re not my people, I feel like I should stand with them.”
Dunning says focusing on mental health is crucial right now and she wants the club to help other kids the way it’s helped her.
“Between school, my weight, I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, they’ve made me happier overall,” said Dunning.
The Be You Wellness program will serve more than 200 youth and will address mental and chronic health challenges. Staff will go through a new training program and lead kids in different activities.
CEO Patrick Placzkowski says he wants their youth, especially those in the Black community, to know they’re there to help.
“COVID, normal life, plus the events of the last three weeks, month since George Floyd absolutely has put a lot more emphasis for us on supporting that mental health and helping those kids feel like they’re supported, and it’s OK to have whatever anxiety and stress they’re feeling,” said Placzkowski.
Dymond Cummings, another member participating in the program, thinks it’s important that kids address these challenges early on, so they have a better chance at a brighter future.
“They have really opened me up because I was a shy little girl at first, like I didn’t really talk to anybody, but over all the years they have really shaped me into a bigger and better person, taught me how to be a leader,” said Cummings.
The program will run into 2021 and is supported by the Grand Rapids Police Department, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids Community College and Stockbridge Business Association.