MISSOULA — The Youth Center through All Nations Health Center (ANHC) officially opened on Thursday, September 8.
All Nations Behavioral Health oversees the Missoula Native Connections program, which focuses on preventing suicide and substance abuse, and abuse prevention. The program offers outreach and educational activities.
In 2019, ANHC received a Native Connections grant for suicide prevention. “Belonging” is one of the themes they intended to encourage, according to Ann Douglas, ANHC Missoula Native Connections Program Director. “In a large community, you might not run into another native student very often, and ideally this facility can bring the local native youth together.”
Native youth in Missoula can sometimes feel like a minority, therefore ANHC has made an effort to give Native youth a space to gather and be themselves in the company of other Native youth, according to Douglas.
A good number of people attended the grand opening, and the ANHC staff was pleased to see that many families came in and out to learn more about the youth & community program.
High school students will attend and take part in the Youth Advisory Board meetings every Tuesday. This entails the young people getting together to brainstorm ideas for events that will involve and empower Indigenous young people in their community.
In addition, the high school students will take part in YELL, a program that explores social justice and creating change. They will explore and learn how they can make or be the change in their community, as well as discuss social justice concerns.
On Wednesdays, middle school native students will participate in activities led by Project Venture, an outdoor recreation program for middle school students that focuses on developing strength and connection to nature, culture, peers, and community.
Once a month, the kids will gather for recreational activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
The middle school students spend Wednesdays playing games or taking part in activities that teach them a variety of beneficial skills they can use in their daily lives, such as effective communication, relationships, community development, help-seeking, emotional well-being, taking risks, nutrition, and more.
The native values, culture, family, community, and environment are incorporated into every lesson plan taught to the youth.
Twenty children in each age group are needed, and ANHC already has 15 students signed up.
As the first time they have been able to give a space for the native youth, Faith Price, the Community Prevention Coordinator for the ANHC, says they are looking forward to what this year has in store.
According to Price, representatives from CSKT have contacted ANHC over the curriculum they employ for Project Venture.
It is not only a place for youth to learn, have fun, and enjoy themselves, but it is also a place for them to meet other adults in their lives who they can trust. One native youth was able to express and speak of her overwhelming anxiety that was on the increase throughout the opening. An ANHC staff member addressed this girl by name and listened to her talk about her anxiety. The staff’s specific concern for the youth and commitment to provide assistance were evident.
The native youth already have exciting initiatives planned, including a Halloween celebration and the construction of a float for the University of Montana’s homecoming parade on September 24.