The Youth Empowerment Program

Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention (ATOP) Meaningfulworld
Is proud to present
The Youth Empowerment Program
Dr Ani Kalayjian

The Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) is a division within the Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention (ATOP) at Meaningfulworld. The overall mission of the organization is “to foster a meaningful, peaceful, and just world in which every individual enjoys physical, mental, ecological, and spiritual health.”

The Youth Empowerment Program is designed as a weekly or bi-weekly program in New York City schools beginning with a 5-week summer program and extending into the school year. The program offers conversations and activities that students engage covering topics such as: prevention of bullying, improvement of self-esteem, expression of emotion, empathy, team building, bystander intervention, healing, emotional intelligence (EQ), sharing and assertiveness. Additional topics may include body image, suicide awareness/prevention, stress management, coping with academic pressures, and peer pressure. Sessions are tailored to the dynamics of each specific classroom as well as the needs of individual students.

The main goals for the program are to diminish bullying, increase awareness about the harmful consequences of bullying, and to provide students with useful tools to cope as a victim, bully, and/or bystander. Other goals include elevating self-esteem and developing skills for empathy, increasing trust, improving relations among the students in each class, and empowering students to seek help when faced with a difficult situation or a challenge.

Each session consists of a combination of discussions, activities, crafts, role play, and occasionally PowerPoint lectures and films. The schedule and topics are tailored to the needs of each individual class, with a focus on increasing awareness of the dangers of bullying and promoting positive growth and empowerment through relationship building and increased self-esteem. The first sessions are geared towards team building and developing trust and improving relations within the class, followed by sessions focusing on expressing feelings and developing empathy, then on the importance of bystander intervention. Mind-body activities focused on breath work and physical release to regulate stress and anger are incorporated within each session. This holistic approach is based upon the seven-step Biopsychosocial and Eco-Spiritual Model developed by Dr. Kalayjian. The model has been incorporated in over 25 nations in response to trauma and conflict and has been modified for children.

The pilot program was a success and the feedback from the teachers and students was overwhelmingly positive and the children reported that they enjoyed the conversation topics, role plays, and prizes for good behavior. ATOP YEP has grown and we now enjoy the involvement of several volunteer Youth Educators.  If you are interested kindly contact us so that you can find a meaningful intervention working with children in New York.

ATOP YEP Program is spearheaded by Founder & CEO Dr Kalayjian and Chaired by Jennifer De Mucci, Vice President of ATOP and Doctoral Candidate in School Psychology at St. John’s University, and the team members are: Michele Gonen, Intern and Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate at Hofstra University, Andre Draughn, ATOP intern and student at Montclair University, Natalia Avendano, ATOP Intern, Ursula Galarcep, ATOP Secretary, and Mandi Duleen, ATOP Intern.

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