“There were parts of the climb that got really tricky,” youth Hector exclaimed after his descent down the 30-foot wall at Vertical Ventures. “I got stuck and I had to figure out how to keep going. I really had to think about it, it’s not as easy as it looks.”
Hector is one of several youth enrolled in the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge who had the opportunity to stand face-to-face with an obstacle course of challenges during a specialized Restorative Justice and Mental Health Day sponsored by BayCare Alliant.
“Challenges are an important part of life and have many benefits,” Marquis Jolly, Restorative Justice Specialist, shared. “Challenges during teenage years prepare a person for the adult world and foster a belief that obstacles are a normal part of life that one can manage and overcome.”
Learning life skills
Not only did youth learn to ascend and descend steep physical walls, they also learned how to do the same with emotional walls during the course. Each youth, in working with Jolly, their Project Bridge team, and mentors, learned to scale their emotions to tap into what thoughts and feelings are taking place within them as well as how to transition those thoughts and feelings into empathy for others.
Both the physical and emotional climb created a powerful imprint on the youth.
“It was scary at first,” youth Tynasia shared following the session. “But everyone was cheering for me, I had to keep going.”
Tynasia learned that taking on a steep wall and learning how to navigate her own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling can be overwhelming, but it is very possible, especially when there is a support system cheering on the sidelines.
The Baycare Alliant Partnership
“BayCare Alliant gave youth the opportunity to tackle their mental capacity to overcome tough obstacles,” Jolly stated. “The team also went the extra mile to ensure all the youth were comfortable and felt a sense of safety throughout the entire event.”
The BayCare Alliant and Project Bridge partnership has allowed for youth to participate in several hands-on learning activities throughout the year that have strengthened their mental and physical health as well as helped them step into the shoes of others and understand the impact their actions have on everyone around them.
Through a series of yoga, cycling, artistic expression, climbing, and community service activities the youth have received training and tools to help them regulate their thoughts and actions as well as form a sense of belonging and partnership with their communities.
There are several additional sessions in the planning stages.
If you are a community member or business that would like to partner with the Restorative Justice and Mental Health project, reach out today.
You can connect by emailing HCross@Eckerd.org.