The ROCK builds resilience in kids, focusing on a growth mindset

With mental health at the forefront, more organizations are stepping up to fulfill the needs of our community’s young people. “Before it was cool and common, we knew we had to come up with a long-term solution to build resiliency, hope and problem-solving skills in our kids. We were watching them struggle without having resources we could provide them with. People can say ‘go read this book,’ but that is not going to give them something to wrap their head, heart and hands around,” shares Beverlee Wenzel, President and CEO of The ROCK Center for Youth Development, of their early years. Recognizing that this important content needed to be created, Wenzel got to work. She wrote the content and has been a part of its evolution to this point.

Working with area teens prompted the creation of another very important program and facet of  The ROCK: Discover You. It's a trademarked program whose mission is to build hope and resilience in youth based on a foundation of acceptance, support, and respect that results in positive life choices. “This program started as a direct service model where I was training coaches, one on one. We quickly realized that this would not be sustainable. We needed to build out the program on a bigger level and we did. We are able to train on Zoom and reach people all over. We have trained individuals in Australia and the United Kingdom. We have actually trained over 200 coaches now and that number keeps going up. By doing it this way, we have reached over 40,000 youth directly,” says Wenzel of Discover You. “This is a mental health program. This is a prevention program. We strive to instill courage, confidence, and connection with this program. We are working with coaches to teach them how to build a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.”

Wenzel acknowledges and credits many community partners and supporters as being a large part of the program’s inception and execution. These partners include, but are not limited to, The Legacy Center for Community Success, University of Pennsylvania, Midland Mayor Maureen Donker and Senator Kristen McDonald Rivet. Currently, the 12-hour training to become a coach is state funded by a grant provided by The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. This virtual, interactive course is conducted over six weeks and draws on the pillars of social emotional learning, and focuses on respect, belonging and kindness.

"We want our coaches and participants to learn how to be the best humans they can be. This training, much like Applied Positive Psychology, uses the Me, We, Us Model. The ‘Me’ is the adult adopting the concepts of the program. The ‘We’ is sharing it with the youth. The ‘Us’ is sharing it with the community,” continues Wenzel. “We are using the Discover You program to train coaches, teachers and other adults that work with kids, especially between grades 6-12, to take a hit. Rather than removing kids from hard situations, they will learn that life can be hard, they will deal with hard things and even though they will have to take a hit sometimes, they will learn that they have value. They have worth. We want kids to look at a situation and say, ‘this is temporary, I can take a hit and I have a growth mindset.’”

Wenzel believes teaching kids to avoid hard situations is more stressful than facing them head on. She wants kids to leave their coach knowing how to acknowledge what has happened, how to set boundaries, and choosing to move on. Thriving when you can and struggling when you need to are two important concepts that participants will also learn and will make them less likely to end up in a mental health crisis.

Coaches will leave the trainings with four lesson plans to take back to the youth that they work with:
-Building Strengths | students aged 11-15, in groups, explore ways to be their best selves.
-Forging Futures | students aged 15-18, in groups, move deeper into their selves and relationships.
-Mastering Skills | students aged 11-18, as individuals or in targeted groups, build connections and skills.
-Designing Tomorrow | students 18 and older develop specific skills designed to increase likelihood of post-secondary completion and improve experiences.

To find more information on the Discover You Program and to learn how to participate in a training, please visit their website.

The ROCK is also excited to announce another program that is being launched this month on November 7 called Building Assets in Youth. This program will focus on character strengths in youth, helping them recognize what they are, how to use them and how to not overuse them. This program will consist of recordings that are ten minutes or less and will focus on one skill each. There is no charge to sign up and parents and professionals are encouraged to participate. More information can be found on their website next week.

The ROCK Center for Youth Development has been reaching our community kids since the year 2000, with their President and CEO, Beverlee Wenzel serving since 2002. The ROCK started as a grassroots non-profit, focusing on the needs of middle and high school students.

The ROCK offers summer camps.
Currently, The ROCK offers summer camp for teenagers by keeping them engaged in an environment that helps them build and develop life skills, make new friends, and keep their minds sharp. ROCK camps are also a safe space that encourages staying active and having screen-free fun. Housed at Greater Midland Community Center, summer camps run Monday through Friday, 8am-6pm with breakfast, lunch and snacks provided. The ROCK also provides a safe place for middle schoolers after school in Midland and Sanford. This program is a productive after school program that instills confidence and a sense of belonging. Seeing as though intentional out-of-school time is so important.

The ROCK also provides community-based teen events that encourage healthy life choices and relationships. These events include pool parties, lock-ins, and field trips. Check out The ROCK's website to learn more.

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Read more articles by Carly Lillard.

Carly Lillard moved to the Great Lakes Bay Region in 2007 from Traverse City. Since that time, she’s graduated from Northwood University and worked in fund development and communications for a variety of non-profits including Shelterhouse and Holy Cross Services. Currently, Carly is working to complete her Master’s Degree from Michigan State University in Strategic Communication. When she’s not writing, you will find her spending time with her husband, Jesse, and two children, Maycie and Elias. Carly can be reached at