Valley program to help kids graduate

The Valley Kids Belong (VKB) Program held its graduation at Bradley Elementary School in Derby, where participants were awarded certificates of completion for the 15-session After School Program, a grant-funded early identification and prevention initiative.

The VKB After School Program is an activity that provides ways for children to build confidence. Students meet new friends and learn about making good choices that will have a positive impact in their lives. Participants are given the opportunity to try a new activity, involving concepts such as health, wellness, art and music.

The program is broken up into three different categories: Self-esteem, emotional awareness and bullying. Within each category, there is a focus on problem solving, effective communication, and appropriate interpersonal interactions.  In addition to social and emotional skills, three different activities, aimed to increase self-esteem and confidence, were part of the weekly program. Once a week, the students participated in Zumba, Judo and team-building games.

This program different from past VKB After School Programs, now allowing 30-40 minutes of homework and quiet reading time, prior to the beginning of the formal programming.

PCRC — which serves the area, including Shelton —  was awarded a Connecticut Health Foundation Children’s Mental Health Grant for the purpose of implementing a community-based system of early identification and intervention over five years. Now in its final year of funding, VKB continues to seek resources to continue its renowned variety of programs.

“Over the past four years, Valley Kids Belong has had an excellent record of helping children develop social and emotional skills that will help them for a lifetime, at home, in school and at work,” said Michael J. Wynne, chief executive officer at PCRC.

VKB works closely with the school systems to determine qualifications of prospective student participants in the program, involving all who are connected with the students, including parents, teachers and counselors.

VKB aims to increase awareness of mental health on a larger scale. Through programming, students are able to address problem-solving issues before they progress.

Valley Kids Belong is a grant-funded, collaborative project whose goal is to create change in the community that helps foster resilience in children and families. VKB believes that kids, their families and the organizations that support them can work together to promote healthier kids — mentally, emotionally, socially and educationally. The program works directly with children, parents and families to provide support in order to build social and emotional skills and to improve family and community relationships.

PCRC is a provider of behavioral health services to children and families in the Lower Naugatuck Valley.