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CYFC Update

CYFC Update — September 2017

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Creating Sanctuary Space for Teachers at Bruce Vento School

Teachers and staff at the Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul are enjoying a new lounge space designed to give them "sanctuary" from the stresses and strains they encounter every day on the job. The new space, which opened in late August, is the culmination of a year-long effort led by CYFC as part of its Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy learners project.

In fall 2016, we in CYFC set out to create a sanctuary space for teachers and staff at Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul. As part of our Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy learners partnership, this project focused on caring for the teachers and staff who work with students every day. Teachers put in long days filled with solving problems and meeting children's needs within an ever-changing environment. Often their days allow little time to leave their classroom, connect with one another, or even eat lunch. We wanted to create a space that served a similar purpose to The Calming Room at the school, but with all the amenities that teachers might need during the day.

Our first steps were to ask teachers what they wanted. They spoke to us individually, filled out an online survey, and joined us for an informal gathering in the teachers' lounge space they were using at the time. We learned that many teachers did not use the lounge because they found it unattractive. They were also dissatisfied with facility problems, including a clogged sink and broken cupboards, and frequent changes in physical location. As our conversations continued, it became clear that more teachers would use a room if it met their needs for preparing and eating food and if it remained in one location from year to year. Committing to a stable location also supported the idea of investing more resources in the space.

This past winter we engaged Abi Asojo, Ph.D., our partner with the University of Minnesota College of Design, who has worked with us on other Bruce Vento Elementary School spaces. We then collaborated with Bruce Vento and St. Paul Public School District staff to fix and replace the sink, cupboards and counters, as well as thoroughly clean and paint the space. Through Abi and the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, we were joined by two students who spent the summer designing the remainder of the new sanctuary space. The students considered teachers' input and ongoing school changes in their design plans.

Through the College of Design, news of this project reached a representative of the Room and Board furniture and home décor retailer, which made a generous donation of furniture and artwork. This donation allowed us to meet the teachers' requests to create a space that served both as a kitchen for preparing and eating food, as well as a living room for relaxing and visiting with colleagues. The new sanctuary space retains a favorite feature from the previous space — a computer station. In addition, the new space includes added appliances and fixtures, such as two new refrigerators, two new microwaves, a coffee pot and updated electronic fixtures to accommodate these.

The new room was unveiled on Monday, August 28, and the new teachers' sanctuary space is now in full use as the school year begins! Contact Cari Michaels to learn more about the project at Visit our website to learn more about the Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy learners partnership.

Check out the transformation of the old to new space in the accompanying photos.







CYFC Program Updates and News

CYFC Welcomes New Graduate Student 

S. Okrey Anderson

CYFC welcomes our new Graduate Research Assistant, S. Okrey Anderson!

S, whose pronouns are they, them, and their, will work with our Scholar in Residence Program during fall semester. Their focus areas are gender and sexual minority youth and young adults, religiosity, family support, and home-based education. S has served as a research assistant at the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois and worked as the youth and families program coordinator at a nonprofit LGBT resource center in Champaign, IL.

S has a bachelor's and a master's degree in social work, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Family Social Science. We welcome S's expertise as we continue our work related to transgender youth. See our ever-expanding library of resources in our online Transgender Toolkit.

What's Up with Bruce Vento's Schoolyard Garden

While Bruce Vento Elementary School students were gone during summer months, a small group of committed parents and volunteers ensured that the garden continued to thrive. When students returned to school in early September, they found ready-to-harvest carrots and ripening tomatoes and peppers.

And in good news for teachers and students, Kirsten Saylor has resumed her valued role as schoolyard garden coordinator this fall. Last year, teachers and students reported enormous value in learning about gardening and healthy foods from Kirsten. As a result, Principal Scott Masini said he will support Kirsten's position for fall semester with temporary funds. This will give school administrators more time to seek sustainable funding.

Besides her assignment at Bruce Vento, Kirsten has been working with the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and St. Paul Public Schools Nutrition Services on school gardening and connections with school lunchrooms. She's also been collaborating with the Family and Consumer Science specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to help incorporate gardening into two tracks of public school curriculum. Kirsten is hopeful the MDE initiative signals a move toward making schoolyard garden coordinators an integral part of school programs.

Lactation Advisory Committee to Hold Lunch 'n Learn September 25

CYFC will co-host a fall Lunch-n-Learn event for the University of Minnesota Lactation Advocacy Committee (LAC). LAC is a group of staff, students, and faculty who collaborate to support parents and advocate for lactation resources on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses. Join us along with our co-hosts, the Center for Early Education and Development and the Department of Family Social Science, from noon to 1 p.m., Monday, September 25, in 120 Coffey Hall. You will learn about LAC membership, history, and recent efforts across the Twin Cities campuses. There will be plenty of time to ask questions, share stories, and get to know colleagues. Find lactation resources and join us on the 25th!

Cultural Providers Network Plans Fall Meetings

CYFC supports the ongoing activities of the Cultural Providers Network (CPN), a group focused on improving mental health services for children of color. The September CPN meeting will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Thursday, the 14th, at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. 451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul.

September's meeting agenda includes Larry Tucker discussing professional development at Kente Circle Training Institute, and Richard Oni reviewing this summer's African Mental Health Summit and talking about a new apprenticeship program in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The September meeting also will feature Susan Koch and others from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) launching a discussion of ways to move forward with Recommendation #3 from the Final Report of the Governor's Taskforce on Mental Health: "Use a cultural lens to reduce mental health disparities." CPN's October meeting, set for the 12th, will include more in-depth discussion of the cultural lens recommendation with DHS personnel.

CPN's monthly meetings are open to anyone interested in children's mental health and cultural considerations in providing mental health services. If you want to learn more about CPN, check out its website, or contact Mina Blyly-Strauss,, or Cari Michaels,, at CYFC.

Spotlight on Suicide Prevention Resources

Promoting mental health and well-being is an important part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers a model that includes nine strategies for suicide prevention which, when combined effectively, help communities respond to suicide. Two of these strategies, "enhance life skills and resilience" and "promote social connectedness and support", reflect the mental health promotion activities of CYFC by helping people build life skills, manage stress, build resilience, and connect with others.

Recent Presentations

Statewide Mental Health Webinar Held in August
We at CYFC are working with colleagues throughout Extension to infuse mental health content into our outreach activities and our professional development. On August 15, CYFC staff joined others to present a statewide webinar for Extension professionals titled "From private to public health concern: Mental health across Minnesota". This interactive event helped build a common understanding of mental health definitions, services, and statewide government and non-profit activities. The event also explored how addressing mental health concerns intersects with current and future Extension work across the state. The webinar also highlighted CYFC's growing partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Community Events

UROC Community Day
3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, October 5
University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center, Minneapolis

Join community and University leaders for an afternoon of food, music, information, and fun at UROC's annual Community Day. This year's open-house celebration of community-University partnerships will feature a look at progress in the Penn-Plymouth Avenue corridor and a special tribute to former UROC Executive Director Heidi Barajas. Learn more.

Wilder Foundation Workshop on Trauma and Race-Informed Mental Health Practices in Classrooms
8:30 a.m. to noon, Friday, October 6
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, St. Paul

This three-hour workshop is for school-based mental health providers and educators ready to explore the connections between trauma-informed principles, racial trauma, and cultural resilience. Learn more and register.

Ramsey County Children's Mental Health Collaborative Youth and Family Well-Being Resource Fair
4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 17
Battle Creek Middle School, St. Paul

This free event will help families connect with resources and support for children who struggle with behaviors, emotions, learning, or mental health. Learn more and register.

Kente Circle Training Institute Fall Conference on Healing in Community and Dismantling Systemic Racism
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday, November 2-3
Shoreview Community Center

Join Kente Circle's sixth annual fall conference to learn about tools to shift white racial patterns that thwart equity and become more effective advocates for justice and healing within and among our communities. Learn more and register.

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