1 in 4 inner-city youth living in inner-cities report witnessing someone get shot (National Center for Victims of Crime), and 1 in 3 develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from exposure to violence (National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network). Our mission is to empower youth of color to heal from trauma from systemic oppression, including structural violence, racism, and poverty. We provide personalized, mental health coaching over text message. Unlike crisis hotlines, our coaches proactively check in with teens 7 days/week, on both their good and bad days, helping them develop positive coping skills. Our coaching is educational, not clinical. We work with clinical advisors to base our coaching model on evidence-based interventions, including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) tested by UCLA. Rand Corporation has shown that teens exposed to TF-CBT have significant improvements in PTSD and depressive symptoms. We use texting given its effectiveness in reaching low-income youth. Texts have a 99% open rate among teens and 83% of teens in households with incomes below $30K have a cell phone (Pew). Through our service, we provide our partners real-time data on student emotional wellness to unlock the blackbox of what youth need to enable systems-level change.
We reach teens where they are - their phones. Our coaching framework is based in our core values which include radical empathy, intersectionality, and unconditional positive regard for our students. We have designed our content to be responsive to the traumatic stressors of youth of color - systemic racism and oppression, poverty, violence, and abuse. Our coaching draws from evidence-based practices proven to positively impact behavioral health outcomes of youth of color including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), validated by USC and UCLA. Studies have also shown the efficacy of TF-CBT in improving attendance and achievement scores for African-American students (Ginsburg-Drake, 2002; Cooley-Strickland et al, 2011; Ngo et al, 2008). Our core innovation is making these proven practices accessible to youth of color in a culturally responsive manner over text message. We use texting given its effectiveness in reaching low-income youth.
Our vision is to become the nationwide data leader on youth of color wellness, leveraging aggregated student data from our daily text message coaching service. To drive systems change, we will build data reporting dashboards that will enable our community partners to pull reports in real-time on student emotional wellness, helping school and city leaders better understand how to allocate resources to support youth. By providing our community partners with real-time, longitudinal data on youth needs and emotional wellness, we can unlock the blackbox of what youth need to enable systems-level change. For example, over the next year, we aim to learn from school partners how our data drives changes in discipline policy, classroom design, staffing practices, resource allocation, and other organizational decisions.
Thus far we have raised over $380K in philanthropic capital to support our work through high networth individuals, foundations and fellowship awards (Camelback Ventures Fellowship, Fast Forward Accelerator Fellowship, Halcyon Incubator Fellowship). We are also growing our earned revenue model so we can increasingly rely on sustainable sources of earned revenue. After our first year of pilots, we were able to secure three paid contracts for our service in the following three markets: schools/school districts, community-based organizations, and government agencies. We aim to continue to seek funding from those sources and are also looking at revenue from Medicaid Managed Care Organizations that would sponsor our work as a wellness program for youth members.
We understand that systems-level efforts to heal and rehumanize our communities must include authentic, inclusive partnerships among community organizations. We actively partner with families and community organizations to support youth of color in an often fragmented, support services landscape. As the only safe space many of our students have to express themselves, we want to ensure they continue to feel supported as we connect them to outside service providers. We leverage our student emotional wellness data to link youth and crisis service providers, who often lack real-time, reliable information on student needs. We have confirmed partnerships with the following institutions to adapt our service: Washington Leadership Academy (DC), Ron Brown Prep High School (DC), Reinvent South Stockton Coalition (Stockton), She Wins! (Newark), Hopeworks (Camden), and East Side High School (Newark). By empowering organizations with our service, we are creating a continuum of support which is usually inaccessible to disadvantaged youth.
We currently serve 200 youth in DC and NJ and have already retained early impact data. On average, 20% of students at our partner institutions opt in to our daily texting service. Since using our service, all of our users who screen positively for risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or have high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scores have improved by on average 11% in an evidence-based measure of psychological well-being (Epoch Adolescent Measure of Well-being). Across all students, levels of Optimism increased by an average of 14%. Overall, 97% of our users have indicated that they feel they have improved in managing stress since using our service. Our longest MindRight users have been using it for over a year now. (Our user testimonials can be found here: https://vimeo.com/230341010)
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