Greeley nonprofit receives grant funding for youth life skills education development

A local nonprofit recently received grant funding to create social-emotional learning curriculum for Weld County students in fourth through eighth grade.

Youth Empowerment Group received $10,000 from the Weld Community Foundation Littler Youth Fund to promote mental health, safety, healthy relationships and academics.

“The Weld Community Foundation Littler Youth Fund has been a consistent partner since day one,” said Dr. Laurie Berdahl, Youth Empowerment Group executive director and former OB/GYN. “They have increased our funding year over year. This is the beginning of our third year and they gave us our biggest grant from them so far. We feel really fortunate for their support of youth but also their trust in us to provide something that could be infinitely helpful during this super challenging time.”

The curriculum, called PowerUp, will be provided to Weld County schools and youth organizations for free. Groups outside of Weld County will pay cost-based license fees for the program.

According to the Youth Empowerment Group, the curriculum will be evidence-based and provide students to learn through various activities. The curriculum, known as PowerUp, is designed to help kids reach core competencies related to emotional-social learning.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning defines SEL as the process children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, show empathy, create and sustain positive relationships and act responsibly.

Within the core competencies, students will learn a variety of skills, including impulse control, stress management, social awareness and active listening. These skills will be presented through lessons addressing social media usage and interpersonal communication.

Groups will receive the lessons, which are still in development, as they are completed. Youth Empowerment Group is using the PowerUp Girls for Life program as a blueprint. The new curriculum will be gender neutral.

PowerUp also focuses on providing a foundation for social, economic and racial equity, Berdahl said. According to a press release, the new curriculum will feature a session about valuing diversity and preventing racism and discrimination.

The development team features licensed psychologists, faculty from the University of Northern Colorado and Aims Community College, and educators from several school districts.

Once complete, the curriculum will be available for in-person or online use. All in-person versions will take masks and physical distancing into account.

Berdahl said the lessons will be similar with the most obvious differences coming through the physical activities and games. Youth Empowerment Group, however, is evaluating its options for online games to accompany the lessons.

All programs will be available to participants and their parents and teachers after the initial lessons are taught. The group is still determining the best way to provide this material, however, handouts will be available for children to keep when they first go through the lesson.

Berdahl expects the group to release the first lesson this week and hopes all lessons will be completed by early 2021. Youth Empowerment Group will also provide handouts and other supplies for teachers, coaches and various youth group leaders who use the curriculum.

The group also received $10,000 earlier this year from the Weld Trust toward the project.

Group leaders who would like to teach students using the curriculum may visit youthempowermentgroup.org or email info@youthempowerment.org for more information.

“We’re pleased and thrilled to receive the grantor support,” Berdahl said. “We feel like the Weld Community Foundation Littler Youth Fund and the Weld Trust are really making it possible for us to provide something that not only helps youth but the people that help them.”

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