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Expanding Wellness Supports for KIPP Alumni and Counselors

Guest post by the KIPP Forward and KIPP Foundation team

As students return to classrooms and college campuses, educators and health practitioners continue to raise the alarm about the widespread mental health crisis among America’s youth.

Compared to pre-pandemic levels, rates of depression and anxiety have reportedly doubled among children and adolescents. America’s leading pediatric experts recently declared a national emergency, saying the worsening mental health crisis is “inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice.”

At KIPP, self-reported data from our students and alumni echo these findings. Among high school students preparing to apply for and matriculate to postsecondary programs, we are observing a tremendous need for more holistic, trauma-informed counseling and supports. On a recent survey of 5,000 alumni, 61% rated their mental health as “fair” to “poor,” and, among those who did not enroll in higher education, or who paused their studies, mental health was cited as the primary reason behind the decision not to enroll. According to the American Council on Education, it’s a top concern for college presidents now too.

This year, with the support of the Crimsonbridge Foundation, KIPP has responded, providing alumni with direct support for counseling and virtual therapy, and training counselors to better recognize, validate, and respond to trauma. And in the immediate aftermath of the disruption caused by COVID, KIPP partnered with Ayana Therapy to provide free, online, culturally competent, clinical therapy for KIPP alumni. We have been able to expand our partnership with Ayana and provide free therapy to nearly 300 KIPP alumni.

“Ayana has been such a blessing,” said one KIPP alum. “I used to have therapy elsewhere, but it was too expensive for me to be consistent, and I felt like I wasn’t making progress. Ayana has allowed me to pursue my mental health in a convenient way. They paired me with an amazing therapist, and I've been meeting with her weekly ever since.

And in 2022, across 13 professional development sessions, we will train hundreds of KIPP college counselors and alumni advisors nationwide to better understand and recognize the trauma response, support students to reduce shame and feel empowered, and tap into and harness resilience. Feedback from early session participants has been incredibly positive. “This was an eye-opener and provided ways to rethink my views of students and how they show up in advising meetings,” said Jacqueline, a Match Placement Counselor from KIPP Newark. “This allows me to better serve my students or seek out individuals who are better equipped to support.”

The Crimsonbridge Foundation is committed to improving educational access, outcomes, and graduation rates, especially for first-generation college students and students underrepresented in higher education.

“Wellness and connection have a transformational effect on a student’s ability to earn a degree. KIPP’s efforts are a great example of how supporting well-being can help students achieve their goals and thrive in college.” said Danielle M. Reyes, President and CEO of the Crimsonbridge Foundation.

Over the past two years, in every community where we work, the importance of mental health supports has never been more evident, and as KIPP considers the power of these supports on graduation rates, we recognize the high-impact opportunity for us to support KIPP alums in new ways going forward, with philanthropy as a partner.

KIPP is a community partner of the Crimsonbridge Foundation’s College Success program.


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