Outreach: the College Crew

A girl of African American descent smiles with laughter while sitting in a row of teens with the arms around each other's shoulders

At Outreach Teen & Family Services, talking about mental health is our passion. We understand that we need to talk about mental health to not feel alone and to get the support we need to heal. We believe it’s important that the voices of our teens and young adults are heard and we want them to be a driving force in our program offerings.

Last year, after discussions with our former junior board members, Outreach created the Youth Advocacy Committee (YAC), which served as a vehicle for youth voices to be heard and their ideas validated and promoted. We are eager to build on the momentum created by the YAC as this fall, we launch our Outreach College Crew (OCC). Last year’s members were instrumental in producing 10 episodes of our monthly podcast, Teens Tap In; spoke at multiple Outreach events to raise awareness of our mission and connect with their peers; and worked to destigmatize mental health by sharing their personal stories at meetings and various community events.

The OCC will enhance the work of the YAC, acting as a peer-to-peer resource for young adults age 18 to 25, using their voices to broaden our agency’s mission. It is the perfect opportunity for emerging professionals who are passionate about mental wellness and want to advocate for positive mental health programs and resources in our communities.

Young adults chosen for this committee completed a rigorous application process. The emerging professionals on the committee come from various universities and backgrounds. The six committee members have the unique opportunity to make a difference in the community by being mental health and wellness advocates, sharing pertinent information about Outreach’s services and programs to peers and other stakeholders. OCC members will host Teens Tap In, choosing subjects that are topical and meaningful to their peers; advance their leadership skills by serving as junior board members; and use their voices to normalize conversations around mental health, reducing its stigma and sharing their own journeys and life experiences at Outreach events.

Each member has a personal connection to mental health, motivating and inspiring them to find and use their voices. One OCC member elaborates on the importance of having such a group by stating, “I think efforts should be taken to combat the worsening mental health crisis in the world, especially after the pandemic. Prevention and early intervention always cost much less than treatment, both financially and effort-wise. Thus, I think raising awareness is the key, especially for teens, when they are developing social and emotional skills.” We couldn’t agree more!

Throughout the year, local universities, school districts, community members and parents should expect to see the OCC in action. The committee members are eager and passionate to make real and lasting changes in the communities that Outreach serves.

We are confident that the dynamic OCC will inform and enhance Outreach as the agency continues helping teens and young adults thrive, creating meaningful conversations and recommending impactful programming. Nurturing this peer-to-peer resource will provide young people with the fortitude to navigate their own mental health journeys, empowering them in building resilience and learning new coping skills.

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families in a welcoming environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.