YouthWell Hosts Youth Linkages Network Retreat and a Student Advocacy & Wellness Summit

On Friday, February 23rd, YouthWell, in collaboration with Santa Barbara County BWell and SBCEO, orchestrated the Youth Linkages Network Retreat at Direct Relief in Goleta. This gathering brought together over 100 of Santa Barbara’s mental health advocates, including mental health providers, school counselors, superintendents, and resource navigators from all parts of Santa Barbara County. The day was designed around “fostering hope for the future” which included a speaker, a student panel, and activities focused on creating stronger connections in order to support youth and their families. 

YLN Retreat Check-In

The student panel featured YouthWell, Youth Advisory Board members from local high schools — Pessia Fygenson, Mitzi Ojendis, and Gabrielle Terzian. They shared their perspective on what is working and what could be improved when it comes to addressing mental health in our schools and community. They passionately discussed topics such as suicide prevention, ways adults can raise awareness about mental health, and the intricate intersection of physical health, mental health, and disability. Speaker Kathryn Goestzke, the CEO of The Shine Hope Company, shared her vision to create hopeful cities worldwide, why Hope as a teachable skill, and emphasizing the importance of recognizing positivity and coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. 

Kathryn Goetzke – The Shine Hope Company

On Sunday, February 25th, YouthWell in partnership with Santa Barbara County BWell hosted the inaugural Student Advocacy and Wellness Summit tailored for high school students at the Community Environmental Council. The Summit attracted 85 passionate teens and adult allies from around Santa Barbara County. The day was crafted to foster connections and empower attendees to become changemakers in their communities. Students were provided with invaluable opportunities to enhance their leadership and advocacy skills, learning how to amplify their voices on issues that resonate with them, all while prioritizing their mental wellness.

YouthWell Team and Students

The panel comprised influential leaders including California State Senator Monique Limon, Gregg Hart, Geoff Green, Farah Stack, Bethanny Bodenhamer, Chief Esparza, and Jordan Killbrew. Breakout rooms offered a platform for students and allies to engage in discussions and share perspectives on a range of issues, including [1] racial justice and equity, [2] LGBTQ+ justice, and equity [3] environmental justice & sustainability [4] working with school admin to create change [5] disability justice and equity, [6] and the importance of self-care and active listening.

Student Advocacy and Mental Wellness Summit Panelists

These events served not only as sources of valuable information but also as catalysts for cultivating a profound sense of community and empowerment among both the youth and adults in Santa Barbara County.  This newfound sense of support, coupled with the realization that there are like-minded individuals among both the youth and adults in our community, effectively dispelled feelings of isolation among the participants.

“I appreciated learning that there are still people that have hope, can give hope, and are sharing their experiences showing that we are not alone.” -student participant

“One small action I am committed to that was inspired by the summit was voicing my opinion when I feel that something needs to be said.”  -student participant

“One of my biggest takeaways was that despite being from all over the county, many of the things bringing us stress as students are the same.”  -student participant

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