We know that when kids feel confident in their choices, they are better positioned to make choices that will help them lead healthy lives. The YMCA PRYDE program works to support kids as they develop self-esteem in an effort to support their decision making. Kids meet with advisors weekly after school to talk about what’s going on in their lives and to learn about building their community and contributing back to their community.

Paolo is an advisor who works with kids in the YMCA PRYDE program, offering them resources and opportunities for service learning. Working with Natural High, Paolo was able to ignite conversations about community, decision making, and developing a personal support team to lean on. Paolo wove Natural High into his already existing afterschool curriculum. Over the span of 6 weeks, incorporating one 45-60 minute Natural High lesson per week, which included a Natural High video, discussion questions and supporting activities.

The students engaged with the Natural High material and Paolo saw an increase in participation through conversation. He says, “students felt comfortable sharing their stories – the videos were relatable.” The discussion questions and activities helped him to create what he called “a safe place for the kids to talk.” The most impactful discussion questions were those that had the students tie their own life experiences to the stories they had just heard. He notes that just like some of our storytellers, “many of my students face their own adversity in living in single parent households and/or drug use by someone in the household. By sharing their own experiences, other students in the group were able to identify the troubles that their peers were going through and willingly offered a support team.”

Paolo is always looking for new and innovative ways to spark interest in the students he works with but also knows he needs to share some crucial information. Working with Natural High, he was able to do both. He likes that the materials are “easy to use” and help to “facilitate conversation.” Toward the end of his unit using Natural High resources, Paolo said the kids were willing to share their own natural highs and that helped to promote and support public speaking which the kids are working on.

The students in the YMCA PRYDE program were so engaged with the Natural High content that Paolo and other staff were able to use it with a broader community at a YMCA PRYDE retreat hosted in the spring of 2019.