After Covid-19 hit Chicago, the staff at the Union League Boys & Girls Club saw youth mourning life as they knew it. So they created Virtual Peace Circles, an online space to meet with teens and support their mental health.
The program brings high schoolers together to reflect on a topic introduced by a facilitator, who validates their feelings and watches for signs of depression. The facilitator also teaches them mindfulness techniques to calm anxiety and manage emotions, guides them to problem-solve friction in their lives, and helps them unplug.
“We wanted to keep them optimistic, acknowledge the ongoing stress and uncertainties of the pandemic, and [address] how it was affecting us all,” says Francisco Soto, director of club services at the Union League Boys & Girls Club.
Instead of sulking, the teens conquered challenges like establishing routines for online learning, not giving in to peer pressure regarding social distancing, and accepting feedback more willingly.