In January of this year, the Youth Advisory Committee administered a Youth Needs Survey to area youth ages 12-18. Results are in, and the overwhelming main issue youth in our community feel effects them is mental health. From stress, cyberbullying, pressure to succeed and life issues, the teens in our community said this issue needs to be addressed.

Also this winter, members of YAC and their advisors attended Zoom mental health webinars with their peers from around the state. After gathering information, the committee decided to start addressing this issue with a mental health proactive grant that would offer information to teens to help cope with stress before they started to feel completely overwhelmed.

“Mental health awareness is something that everyone can personally connect to. This project that YAC wants to put forth has been beneficial for ourselves and will be beneficial to the youth in our community.” stated Elizabeth Pallarito, YAC President and project co-chair.

The first step was to secure funding for the project. They applied to the Michigan Community Foundations Youth Project for a $1,500 grant and talked with the Gaylord Area MEA-Retired organization for additional funding.

“Every few years we get an excess of funds in our account. We consulted at our May meeting. The consensus was we wanted the money to focus on improving the mental health of students in Otsego County after such a trying year. When I called the Otsego Community Foundation, Karin told me about the new YAC project. She came to present at our June meeting and we knew it was a fit. The vote was unanimous. We even upped our contribution!” noted Darcy Lewis, President, Gaylord Area MEA-Retired

Then the fun started. A poster was designed with 6 Tips to Help Teens Cope With Stress that will be hung in the Gaylord Community Schools, the Johannesburg-Lewiston Area School, the Vanderbilt Area School, Gaylord St. Mary, Otsego County Library and the Otsego County Sportsplex. The committee filmed a PSA commercial with Awrey Films at the beautiful Otsego Resort on August 9th that will be played on social media platforms and at the Gaylord Movie Theater.

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