Grant Will Launch New Effort to Support Mental Health Needs of Latino Teens
In an effort to advance two of its key focus areas — advancing mental health and helping kids succeed — the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation today announced details of a new charitable investment that will establish a support group for Latino teens.
A grant from the Foundation will support Atrevete a Ser tu Mismo (Dare to Be Yourself), a support group for Latino teens ages 14-17 who have recently immigrated to the United States and are new to the culture, language and school system.
The effort will be led by Caminando Juntos, a local nonprofit that provides case management, immigration legal services, English classes and more for Latino individuals, families and kids throughout our community.
The grant illustrates the Foundation’s commitment to serving a growing and changing community through new and innovative efforts that encourage engagement, spark collaboration, and inspire philanthropy around issues that impact the quality of life for all.
“Being a teenager in 2023 is hard enough. Imagine being a teen who is also navigating a language barrier, acclimating to a new country, potentially dealing with past trauma, and more,” said Patrick Gale, vice president for community investment.
“In the Sioux Falls School District today, more than 42% of students are racially diverse, with Spanish being among the top five languages spoken in families' homes. As a community, we need to ensure these kids have the resources they need to be successful in all facets of life — socially, academically, mentally and physically.”
“A changing community has changing needs, and we believe philanthropy can play a key role in helping to respond to those needs,” Gale said. “Supporting these young people now will not only have a positive impact on their lives today, it will impact their lives tomorrow. It will also impact our shared society. Investing in our kids yields immeasurable returns: Stronger families, healthy neighborhoods, a robust workforce, a vibrant economy, and so much more.”
The support group will begin in August and will be led by Dr. Margarita Gomez, a psychologist originally from Columbia who has more than 20 years of experience working with young people. The 10-week program will cover mental health topics such as emotional intelligence, healthy communication, mindsets, mental well-being, self esteem and self worth, and future aspirations.
Amy Tulson Robles is an EL Liaison at Washington High School and is also the founder of Amigos Hispanos, a student-led group for Latino students. She said the Atrevete a Ser tu Mismo support group will be a great resource for students across the city.
“For us, this is such a gift,” she said. “There aren’t that many counselors in Sioux Falls who are bilingual and who speak Spanish — so this is so huge. When you’re a newcomer to a country, it means so much to be able to speak to someone who knows your language. And for teens, to be able to share and express themselves in their home language about everything they’re going through — learning a different language, their family dynamics, acclimating to new foods and a different climate. And also for them to learn practical things that will help them be successful here in the US — eating well, getting enough rest, etc.”
The program also helps supplement the work the Sioux Falls School District does to serve students from other countries.
“Our school does an incredible job in welcoming students, but having other organizations come around to provide additional support just offers even more help for these kids. These students are Sioux Falls students, so we’re thrilled there’s a program like this to help them succeed,” Tulson Robles said.
Caminando Juntos called the grant — the Foundation’s second charitable investment in this area (an earlier grant helped launch a pilot support group this spring for about 40 students) — a game-changing investment in the lives of young people living in Sioux Falls.
“Thanks to the Community Foundation, this support group is absolutely going to change lives,” said Matthew Tschetter of Caminando Juntos. “We aim to help Latino teens develop into people who can authentically express themselves, be thriving and confident as they grow, and learn how to live in their new home in Sioux Falls.”