Crittenton Services of Greater Washington is a local nonprofit that has been a lifeline for at-risk teen girls struggling with their mental health, particularly during the pandemic.
The nonprofit focuses on empowering middle and high school girls from diverse backgrounds attending schools in D.C. or Montgomery County.
“It just feels like family, like you know they’re there for you,” Yanica Mejias said. “They give a lot of advice.”
Yanica is a client in the program, who credits Crittenton Services with helping her stay healthy mentally.
“My dad lost one of his jobs, so it kind of affected us food wise, like paying the rent. We were sometimes tight on money. So that’s where the program came in. They were giving out boxes of food and just general supplies that we might need at home,” she said.
The program pairs students with other girls, so they can meet virtually and lean on each other.
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“At the beginning of the pandemic we noticed a lot of trauma was happening, a lot of changes with the girls. We did a needs assessment where we noticed that the biggest impact was mental health,” Claudia Garcia, the program director, said.
That’s when Garcia said they reworked their curriculum to address mental health needs, like recognizing and talking about emotions.
The program helps the girls understand “why we have that emotion and providing them with coping skills will be helpful with dealing with that emotion, whether it’s stress, anger, frustration, sadness, worry,” Garcia said.
It’s been hard, she said, because the girls are missing their friends, and many didn’t have computers or internet at the start.
“Family being infected with COVID-19 -- all that caused a lot of stress. And even now eight months later, it’s still those same issues coming up over and over again,” Garcia said.
As a junior applying to college, the fact that Yanica’s small group of girls is going through similar issues keeps her motivated.
“I would kind of just be like all over the place, like I wouldn’t really have anybody I could go to, not just about school stuff,” Yanica said.
It’s a hard time for all teens. Garcia reminds parents to check in daily, make sure they’re okay, and try to keep a routine.
Crittenton is still accepting students for the new year. Families can go to www.crittentonservices.org for more information.