Herzing University, a Milwaukee-based accredited nonprofit institution, was recently awarded the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment’s (AHW) Seed Grants Award, marking the start of an impactful 2024 initiative to benefit the youth across Wisconsin communities. Through this funding opportunity, Herzing University will partner with The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and the Medical College of Wisconsin to develop and oversee a comprehensive health and wellness program.
The award includes a grant of $49,242 over one year which began January 1, 2024. Made possible by AHW and the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Board of Trustees, this grant* is a testament to Herzing’s commitment to making transformative change in youth wellness in the Wisconsin community.
Herzing’s proposal, Seeds for Strong Futures: Nurturing Youth Wellness through Caregiver-Focused Education, identified the importance of educating and supporting caregivers, recognizing their pivotal role in fostering the well-being of Wisconsin's youth. The program aligns with AHW’s mission by addressing critical aspects of youth development, both physically and mentally, through a targeted focus on caregivers, an often-overlooked component of successful youth advocacy.
“The primary objective of this initiative is to elevate the overall wellness of Wisconsin's youth, both physically and mentally,” said Dr. Elizabeth Wilson, Social Work Department Chair at Herzing University. “The program emphasizes the crucial role caregivers play in influencing youth well-being. By providing targeted opportunities to caregivers, this initiative is set to improve communication and relationships within families, fostering a supportive environment for children in the Wisconsin communities and creating a template that others can emulate.”
In 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a mental health advisory on mental well-being, highlighting the challenges faced by youth nationwide. Herzing recognizes the urgency of addressing these issues and understands the pivotal role caregivers play in influencing the health and happiness of youth.
“Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is extremely grateful for the partnership with Herzing University and the Medical College of Wisconsin,” said Toya Griffin, BGCGM Senior Director of Academics. “Our members seek to connect with the BGCGM staff, parents, and guardians in their everyday lives, as well as to have their opinions heard. We want to make sure that we are offering our members all the assistance and guidance we can because we are aware of how many people have a lasting influence on them.”
This grant supports the development of a curriculum tailored to the specific needs of children, fostering enhanced communication and community-wide understanding. With the support of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, this program is positioned to develop informed caregivers and prepare them to meet the distinct challenges faced by the area’s youth.
The Seeds for Strong Futures project is driven by a set of comprehensive goals aimed at achieving meaningful outcomes in youth wellness through caregiver-focused education. The project team from Herzing University and the Medical College of Wisconsin, alongside the project lead from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, will work collaboratively to:
- Provide Information on Existing Challenges: Develop innovative curriculum modules, led by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from Herzing University, covering topics related to physical, behavioral, and mental health challenges faced by youth.
- Deliver Comprehensive Curriculum Assessment: Conduct a thorough assessment of the curriculum's effectiveness and impact on caregivers' ability to address youth challenges, with feedback from the Medical College of Wisconsin, Herzing University Master of Social Work (MSW) students, and caregivers.
- Enhance University Student Engagement and Development: Involve high-performing MSW students in all project phases, from reviewing material to gaining leadership skills, ensuring exposure to the participant evaluation process, and contributing to ongoing program growth.
The project will utilize SMEs to develop an innovative curriculum covering crucial topics such as stress reduction, coping skills, safe social media use, depression, anxiety, and discrimination. The curriculum will be delivered through a hybrid format, combining virtual and in-person sessions to maximize engagement.
Herzing’s MSW degree program students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in implementing a community-focused initiative. This experience allows them to directly contribute to the well-being of youth and families in our community, while also fostering professional growth and career readiness.
“As a community-focused organization, we understand the power of partnerships and strategic collaboration,” Dr. Wilson shared. “In addition to our dedicated team at Herzing, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee share our passion for supporting the Wisconsin community through education and enrichment. We are stronger together, and this grant and the work that comes out of it are evidence of that.”
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee will be instrumental in implementing the initiative at the community level, while the Medical College of Wisconsin will be conducting a comprehensive assessment of the curriculum’s effectiveness, ensuring the program’s impact on caregivers’ ability to address youth challenges.
“The Medical College of Wisconsin and I are truly excited to partner with Herzing University and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee to facilitate increasing provider skills to support the physical and mental health needs of Milwaukee children and adolescents,” said Dr. Christopher Simenz, Ph.D., MS, Associate Director - Master’s and Doctor of Public Health Programs for the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Efforts to begin this initiative are moving forward, starting the work in early 2024.
"As we embark on this transformative journey, we are grateful for our partners, and the opportunity to pursue projects we are passionate about," Dr. Wilson said. "Together, we are living out the Herzing mission of promoting a healthy workforce and providing our students opportunities to make an impact in their community."
*This project is funded wholly by the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment.