January is Mental Wellness Month, a time to raise awareness and take action to improve the mental health of children, adolescents, and young adults. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the existing mental health crisis among America’s youth, with increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. On top of that, Mental Health tops the list of Parental, and teen concerns.

EmpowerGen began addressing this with one of our past issues: Empowering Youth Mental Health: The Healing Power of Nature and Purpose.

To combat this urgent challenge this January, a group of three Brown University students, through a grant from Brown’s Careers for the Common Good Program, teamed up with Dream Tank, a Boulder-based social innovation accelerator for youth, to design and launch a summer camp experience that aims to promote mental wellness among young people. The students, who are part of the Brown University “Winternship” 2024 program, spent two weeks in January working with Dream Tank founder and CEO Heidi Cuppari, who is an alumnus of Brown University, and other mentors, partners, and collaborators such as PeaceJam, Ejido Solutions’ Playa Puertecito and more to develop their idea.

The summer camp, Project Spark, named by the students, is a program created by youth for youth, that combines adventure, fun, and education to help participants cope with stress, build resilience, and foster positive relationships. Project Spark is based on the latest research on youth mental health, as well as the input and feedback of potential campers and their families.

Watch the 2-minute Project Spark video created by students Amy, Rithik, and Vini below!  It features a voiceover by our co-editor, Summer, a University of Colorado Boulder Leeds Business School student, who was one of the mentors for the project. 

Some of the features of Project Spark include:

  • Immersion in an off-grid retreat center in Baja, Mexico
  • A variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock climbing, that offer physical and mental benefits, as well as opportunities to connect with nature and peers.
  • A curriculum that covers topics such as mindfulness, self-care, emotional regulation, communication skills, and social justice, delivered through interactive workshops, games, and discussions.
  • A supportive and inclusive environment that celebrates diversity, encourages collaboration, and empowers youth to share their stories, ideas, and dreams.
  • A follow-up program that provides ongoing support and resources to campers and their families after the camp ends, such as online coaching, peer mentoring, and community events.

Project Spark is currently seeking funding, partners, and participants for its pilot launch in summer 2024. The goal is to reach as many youth as possible, especially those who are most vulnerable and underserved by the current mental health system. Project Spark hopes to make a positive impact on the lives of young people.

Project Spark is one of the many examples of how Dream Tank is empowering youth to design the future they want to see. Dream Tank offers various programs and platforms for youth to unleash their creative potential, learn entrepreneurial skills, and collaborate with mentors and peers. Dream Tank also advocates for youth voice and representation in decision-making processes at all levels of society.

To learn more about Project Spark, Dream Tank, receive the research data report behind it, and how you can support / get involved, visit their website or follow them on Instagram. (Playa Puertecito, the Off-grid paradise and Dream Tank)

This article is part of the EmpowerGen column, a series of articles that highlight the stories and achievements of youth who are creating positive change in the world. To read more articles from the EmpowerGen column, visit this link.

For aspiring youth journalists who would like to write an issue of EmpowerGen, click here.

 Project Spark: U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis :: Dream Tank (@wearedreamtank) • Instagram photos and videos : Home – Dream Tank :: U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis | Youth Engaged 4 Change : Empowering Youth Archives

Article: Horowitz, R. M. and J. M. (2023, January 24). Parenting in America today. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/01/24/parenting-in-america-today/

Heidi Cuppari, a graduate of Brown University, is a pioneering figure in the fields of sustainable financing, impact investing, youth entrepreneurship, and women's leadership. Having moved to Boulder in 2006, she has spent nearly two decades contributing to the growth and development of the impact investing and social entrepreneurship community in the city. With a personal life as vibrant as her professional one, Heidi is a devoted mother and an integral part of a close-knit family. She started a family legacy art gallery and celebration space called Cuppari Mondo Bello, in collaboration with her children and her father, the acclaimed Italian artist Pasquale Cuppari. This venture was initiated to uplift her father during the challenging times of COVID-19, and it has since morphed into an avenue for social impact through the amplification of consciousness-evoking art. In her career and volunteer activities, Heidi strives to align global social impact with collective action. As the founder of Island17 and Dream Tank, and as a council member of The Digital Economist, she continually advances her mission of fostering a healed planet and peaceful world. She recently co-created the Playa Puertecito Collaborative, an initiative aimed at building a sustainable community on the Sea of Cortez. Her work emphasizes the power of collective impact and highlights the importance of giving a voice to the younger generation in shaping our shared future. Heidi's Empowerment Coaching and Mentoring sessions demonstrate her ability to blend traditional life coaching support with loving, innovative, and relationship-based models. https://www.teensandparentsontrack.com https://heidicuppari.net