We are privileged to have moments like we did at the beginning of this month to gather as staff, board and volunteers for training, prayer and fellowship. We began with a staff discussion on the importance of self-care from the lens of professionals in an organization that is rooted in service to others. Jeremy Easton, Co-Director at the Christian Counseling Center in San Jose led the discussion and our church partner Highway Community graciously hosted us. The second day our staff, board and volunteers gathered at Vallombrosa Center where Lety Arreola-Garcia, the Mental Health Services Coordinator at Children’s Health Council and also an active member of our community, gave an engaging presentation about the most prevalent mental health stressors EPA youth face. After lunch, where we were led in guided prayer by Seth Dickson, the City Director at ReWire and a long-time supporter of BCM.
Here’s what our BCM family had too say about our time together:
Why did you decide to give up a Saturday to BCM?
I hear the students in Streetworkz regularly talk about all the stressors and challenges they face, both expected of the typical middle school experience (eg. grades, friends, parents), as well as those far beyond what they should have to contend with (eg. drugs, violence, death). I wanted to learn more about mental health and strategies to support them so I could be more helpful when conversations around these topics arise.
I think it is important to constantly stay up to date when working with kids and understand the responsibility we have when we're around them.
I'm still fairly new to the BCM high school program and am still learning about issues facing the community. I wanted to learn more about ways to help, or at least not harm, when volunteering.
The number of housing insecure kids in the community.
One thing that surprised me was how even those volunteers and staff members who had worked with kids in EPA for many years still struggled with some of the same challenges I do around how to best support the students when they are struggling.
The point about how kids are being affected by the housing crisis, especially those who are still here but are losing their friends and family who move away.
I learned that we are already doing a lot of things right. I also learned that a big hurdle is just feeling equipped to be in a conversation about mental health even if we are not experts.
It encouraged me to continue pressing forward with mental health training for staff and making sure volunteers get the level of training necessary to support our students.
By learning the signs to look out for when working with students it helps us assess situations better and it's comforting that we can always consult with each other because we've all done the work-shop together.
It reminded me that whenever a kid comes in and they act disgruntled that I need to ask them more questions.
I plan to take deliberate time for self-care to re-center and get away so I can allow myself to feel my emotions and then return to daily activities.
I plan to practice getting into a prayer posture before I pray and study God’s word.
Because of my experience I totally understand the importance of self-care; I eat healthy, read books, meditate and do what I need to do to self-care. The first day of the retreat really confirmed what I was already doing.
The retreat was very helpful and the speaker (Lety) was great because she is from the community.
I feel like it gave me even more insight which prompted me to do more research and be more compassionate.
I would definitely recommend the retreat to others. It was a good balance of theory, social and prayer time. It allowed us to digest what we had learned and think about how we can be of support to the students through prayer.
Pictured, Lety Arreola-Garcia gives her lecture about the mental health struggles students face.