Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Valley Kids Belong holds graduation in Derby

Valley Kids Belong Program Director Desiree Caporaso hands a certificate and bag to student Michael Corso to take home after completing the summer program. / Contributed photo

DERBY - Valley Kids Belong held its graduation July 31 at Derby Middle School where participants were awarded certificates of completion for the four-week summer program, designed to enhance social skills and decision making for children ages 6-14.

PCRC was awarded a Connecticut Health Foundation Children’s Mental Health Grant for the purpose of implementing a community-based system of early identification and intervention over five years. Now in its final year, the summer program has found its highest success with an altered curriculum. 

In prior years, the summer program encompassed 15 different topics. This year, each week presented a different topic, including self-esteem, emotions and bullying. 
Within those pieces, students focus on problem-solving, decision-making, coping skills and teamwork.

“We felt the kids were able to grasp the ideas better than picking a different topic each day,” said Program Director Desiree Caporaso.
“Fewer topics allowed the students time to tie them in with each other. The smaller setting was better to focus on interpreting relationships and working better together, and to give each student specific attention depending on what their need is.”

During the fourth program week, the group went on a field trip to Wells Hollow Creamery in Shelton where the kids were introduced to farm animals. 
The program also allowed the children two opportunities to interact with preschool students with special needs. During the final week, program participants helped these children complete activities, including jewelry making and origami.

This new curriculum has demonstrated success, according to Tracy Cerravone, a parent of VKB program graduate, Trevor. “Trevor was disappointed it was his last day. He loved it. To keep their attention at this age is fantastic. He came home everyday excited and talked about the activities he was involved in. He’s done numerous programs by himself and with the family, and it’s been a great success,” said Cerravone.

Students also found success through tutoring in a fun learning environment where they read a book and completed interactive projects by comparing animals; one of the groups generated an idea for a new product and came up with a selling pitch. 
Other engaging activities included self-expression through artwork, Zumba, team-building through sports, and igniting their curiosity with science experiments. Science experiments included making lava lamps and learning the effect of Mentos on soda.

“Over the past four years, Valley Kids Belong has had an excellent record of helping children develop social and emotional skills that will help them for a lifetime, at home, in school and at work,” said Michael J. Wynne, PCRC Chief Executive Officer.

Valley Kids Belong works closely with the school systems to determine qualifications of prospective student participants in the program, involving all who are connected with the students, including parents, teachers and counselors.

An underlying purpose of Valley Kids Belong is to increase awareness of mental health on a larger scale. Through PCRC programming, students are able to address problem-solving issues before they progress. “Students can learn coping skills and build confidence to be able to handle social skills and decision making better. The other part is to reduce involvement in the juvenile justice system.  While it cannot be predetermined that a child may get involved with the court system, we do know that if children are resilient, have confidence in themselves and are able to effectively problem solve, the chances of court involvement is reduced,” said Caporaso. 
“There’s nothing like VKB in the area – our program is all free to families.”

Valley Kids Belong offers after-school programs, summer programs, Families & Schools Together (FAST), and Triple P Positive Parenting Programs. These programs cover ages 0-18.

Valley Kids Belong is a grant-funded, collaborative project whose goal is to create change in the community that helps foster resilience in kids and families. Valley Kids Belong believes that kids, their families and the organizations that support them can work together to promote healthier kids – mentally, emotionally, socially and educationally. 
The program works directly with children, parents and families to provide support in order to build social and emotional skills and to improve family and community relationships

This is a press release from PCRC, the leading provider of behavioral health services to children and families in the Lower Naugatuck Valley. 
Programs, including the Child Guidance Clinic, Family Enrichment Service, Therapeutic Mentoring Program, Intensive Outpatient Program, and the Prevention through Early Intervention Program, help children and their families so that they may develop to their fullest potential.

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