June 5, 2024

SWAN received the CPBJ Innovation Award for its “Rising Stars” program. There is no program like it in the country, and at a time when there is a mental health crisis among youth, this innovative program is receiving accolades. 

“More than 5 million U.S. children have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their lives. The incarceration of a parent can have as much impact on a child’s well-being as abuse or domestic violence. But while states spend heavily on corrections, few resources exist to support parental incarceration.” (source)

Sadly, when a parent goes to prison, their children often suffer from a host of difficulties, such as trauma, separation, abandonment, homelessness, and poverty. As a result, children suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally yielding, among other things, behavioral issues and substandard academic performance.

Presently, if a child is in a mental health crisis, they may not get an appointment with a mental health professional for 2 to 3 months. But, often, students don’t show up for those appointments, or if they do, they don’t talk.

Rising Stars has Mental Health Counselors present in our music classrooms. When students create music, work in ensembles, and face the challenges and successes of performance, it’s all highly interactive, challenging, and fun. Yet, in those classrooms, the students can be triggered and have behavioral issues that their Mental Health Counselor can immediately help them with. The students are already familiar with the counselor and are more likely to talk. The counselors also offer trauma management and social-emotional learning classes within their scheduled time at Rising Stars.

This Pilot Program began in June 2023 with a six-week, full-day program. By January 2024, it started running as an extended after-school program one day each week from 3:15 – 6:00 pm. Our 2024 summer session will begin on June 24 and run for five weeks. We will offer the program two to three days weekly for the 2024 – 25 school year.