Success Academy’s Student-Led Mental Health Club Gains Momentum

October 24, 2023

By HWM Partnership

In a remarkable transformation, the charter school system that found its roots in Harlem has emerged as a groundbreaking exemplar of campus mental health support.

Success Academy, born in 2006 with its first kindergarten class in Harlem, now stands as a shining paragon of comprehensive student well-being. While its early beginnings were marked by pioneering lottery-based admissions, it has since expanded to encompass 53 schools, catering to over 20,000 students from low-income neighborhoods across the city. Each campus houses a dedicated social and emotional learning specialist, thoughtfully designed spaces, and an atmosphere that prioritizes mental health.

One of the school’s most resonating success stories is the flourishing of its high school mental health club, which has burgeoned in significance, drawing the acclaim of both students and staff. Segnonble Yoanson, the club’s president, observes the transformative power it wields, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. Established in 2021 as a student-led initiative, the club swiftly became a haven of intellectual discourse and emotional solace.

Yoanson articulates his sentiment, saying, ‘It just felt so enjoyable and intellectual and like a safe harbor. It was a community that I wanted to be a part of and even have a hand in influencing.’

….classes has achieved a 100% college acceptance rate.

Beyond the club’s embrace, Success Academy offers an array of privileges that its students might otherwise not have access to. The campus enrolls students through a randomized lottery system, and remarkably, each of its six graduating classes has achieved a 100% college acceptance rate. The academy has burgeoned far beyond its original Harlem locale, spreading its wings across the city. In every new setting, it integrates a dedicated social and emotional learning specialist, maintaining an environment centered on well-being.

Motolani Odukogbe, a social and emotional learning specialist, underscores the profound impact: ‘People are starting to realize and identify their emotions and take charge and try and fix whatever it is that they’re trying to fix in their lives.’

Alexa Veloz, the Vice President of the mental health club, attests to the club’s transformative influence, recounting how it altered her career trajectory and even enhanced her home life. She shares, ‘When I joined the mental health club, I realized I wanted to help people. So I kind of want to be a nurse now.’ Additionally, Success Academy students have access to a dedicated platform, ‘UWill,’ which offers professional mental health support around the clock. Veloz commends the flexibility of UWill, where she can select a suitable professional based on her specific needs.

Veloz elucidates, ‘If I’m having like self-body issues on this certain day, I’m like, okay, I want to work on that. I feel like I’m stressed, I can work on that as well. And I just like how we can pick and choose who we want to talk to.’

An 81% increase in student enrollment during this semester.

Notably, Success Academy became the first in the United States to offer UWill to its middle schools last year. The result? An 81% increase in student enrollment during this semester.

From confidential dialogues to communal exchanges, these young minds can now confidently navigate their own path to success. As Yoanson aptly summarizes, ‘Even just telling a friend, ‘I’m going through this,’ is really what is going to get us to a better future.'”

For more information about Success Academy, click here.

Photo credit: Success Academy.

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