The Starting Point 2.0 Class of 2019 and their children. Young women seeking to build a better future for themselves and their families now have access to mental health counseling services thanks to a grant from the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation.
By Julie Keller, executive director, Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region
Starting Point 2.0 and EmpowHER are two programs designed to help women ages 18-29 with financial skills, empowerment and career planning. The goal of the programs is to prepare the participants to successfully complete post-secondary education, leading to family supporting wages.
Starting Point 2.0 is a collaboration between the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region, Fox Valley Technical College and B.A.B.E.S., Inc. Child Abuse Prevention Program. It is based on the Aspen Institute’s two-generation approach to addressing generational poverty by meeting the needs of the family together. Topics such as life and family strengthening skills, how to overcome mental and emotional hurdles, opportunities for employment, and how to prepare for career and college success, among many others, are part of the coursework. While mothers attend class, their young children receive age-appropriate early childhood education at B.A.B.E.S. EmpowHER covers the same empowerment topics but is geared for women who are not parents.
The spring 2019 semester saw the addition of much needed mental health services thanks to a grant from the Bright Idea Fund. This pilot program includes an initial assessment and nine counseling sessions for up to five women provided by The Samaritan Counseling Center.
Kara Nowak, FVTC counselor and program instructor, identified the need for mental health services after noticing that some of the students’ struggles were more complex than what could be addressed during class or from the counseling staff at the college.
One student we’ll call “Sally” stood out to Nowak. Sally was a good student, but Nowak saw signs of depression early in the semester. Sally shared that she had seen a psychiatrist and taken medication in the past. She knew she needed help but couldn’t afford it or figure it out alone. Nowak could see that Sally’s current state would prevent her from success in the future and didn’t want her cry for help to go unheard. After receiving the Bright Idea grant, Sally is now receiving the counseling services she needs.
During the pilot phase, the ability to improve the lives of these young women by placing a focus on their mental health will be assessed. Data and information will be collected to determine if the initial scope of the services offered is meeting the needs of the women.
Starting Point 2.0 has run for four semesters and 27 women have graduated from the program. Thirty-one preschool-age children have received quality early childhood education and an additional 22 children in the households have benefitted. There have been 14 graduates of EmpowHER in the two semesters it has been held.
Other program collaborators include Child Care Resource & Referral, Building for Kids, Appleton Housing Authority, Partnership Community Health Center and the Financial Wellness Center.
You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support.