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Remote Social Groups

Class

Youth Development 

Beneficiaries

Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
At-Risk Populations
Blacks, African Heritage
Children (4-12 years)
Ethnic/Racial Minorities

Description

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

In March of 2020 after schools shut down, Connect Us began offering Remote Social Groups where age-based groups of kids came together to participate in remote activities guided by our facilitators. Our objectives remained the same--to create cohesive, team-based, problem-solving groups where everyone learns and grows from their interactions. In addition, we wanted to provide opportunities for kids to socialize and talk through concerns and fears about COVID-19 with their peers and with our support.

Connecting Teens

Class

Youth Development 

Beneficiaries

Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
At-Risk Populations
Ethnic/Racial Minorities
People/Families with of People with Developmental Disabilities
People/Families with of People with Psychological Disabilities

Description

Weekly social groups building self-confidence and leadership skills through the power of team connectedness. Middle-school age groups and high school age groups will bond with their peers during extremely fun, physical, creative and collaborative activities in a supportive environment where everyone belongs and is valued for exactly who they are.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

"I'm getting better at talking to people. I am very shy and get anxious in social situations. This program has helped me feel more comfortable talking to people." Chloe, age 16

"We talk about and role-play ways to deal with bullies and drama. I'd never have the right words so I would just take it. Now with all the practice I'm ready to handle people who are nasty to me or my friends." Evan, age 12

"It's good to know you're not the only one having problems with friends or kids at school. Connect Us gives us a place to share our frustrations with people who care about you and who get what you're going through." Loyal, age 14

Year-Round Social Skills Groups

Class

Youth Development 

Beneficiaries

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)
Blacks, African Heritage
Ethnic/Racial Minorities
Hispanic, Latino Heritage
People/Families with of People with Developmental Disabilities

Description

Our inclusive, activity-based social groups for children ages 3-13 harnesses the power of collaborative play to build self-confidence, and friendship skills!

Activities vary by age group, but all groups have the same general structure: led by therapists and facilitated by coaches, but ultimately led by children. Sessions begin with facilitators guiding the interaction. As the session progresses, they retreat to let the children shape the conversation and activity. By the end of the session, older groups are collaborating and resolving conflicts with little adult interference.

1) Preschool and Half-Day Kindergarten Groups
• Connect the Tots: Preschoolers and half-day kindergartners
Connect the Tots engages kids in structured activities and sensory games that foster social awareness, imagination, turn-taking, cooperation, communication, active listening and shared enjoyment. Groups partake in music, dance, physical activity and pretend play.

2) Elementary-Age Groups
• Breakfast Club: Kindies and First-Graders
The Breakfast Club will tap into creative abilities through drama, dance, music and theme play, such as superheroes, pirates, and restaurant activity. Youngsters also engage in team-based, physical activity and learn the fundamentals of recess games such as freeze tag, sharks and minnows, relay races, foursquare and kickball.

• Grow With the Flow: Second and Third Graders
Collaboration is the name of the game and most of the games are physical! Activities require problem-solving, flexibility, and cooperation. Each child must take on a role, regardless of skills. It's up to the team to use each player in a curriculum that will push many outside of their comfort zones.

• Lofty Leaders: Fourth and Fifth Graders
Athletic, brainy, or average - what fun! Bullying, ignoring, or excluding - ALL DONE! Objectives are similar to Grow with the Flow, with an emphasis on teaching skills that prevent bullying, increase assertiveness and empathy, and empower kids to become leaders. Participants must rely on their teammates to achieve a common goal and work cooperatively to solve problems.

*Sixth-Eighth Graders
Middle school is not for the faint of heart! Our job is to make sure kids have the tools and self-confidence to navigate what is frequently the most challenging and vulnerable period in young lives. They will learn and practice strategies for responding to bullying, peer pressure, negative influences, anxiety, stress and peer conflict. Each week, our preteens will embrace their individuality and appreciate the unique qualities everyone in the group brings to the table.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

- Since Connect Us began in June 2009, we have provided after-school social groups every winter, spring and fall and eight-week-long summer camp sessions every year.

- Connect Us has served approximately 800 children in groups and summer camp programs.

- 65% of children have participated in multiple sessions.

- 54% of program participants come from low-income families and received scholarships to attend after-school, school break and camp programs.

- 98% of participants have been referred by other Connect Us families, schools or child-service professionals.

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After attending ONE eight-week session:
-69% of parents reported that their children had improved their ability to deal with frustration by using words and calming techniques.
-75% of parents reported that their children had a more positive attitude.
-66% of parents reported that their children were making more of an effort to join peers at play.
-65% of parents reported that their children developed at least one new friendship.
-82% of parents reported that their children had increased confidence with peers.

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After attending TWO eight-week sessions:
-78% of parents reported that their children had improved their ability to deal with frustration by using words and calming techniques.
-84% of parents reported that their children had a more positive attitude.
-79% of parents reported that their children were making more of an effort to join peers at play.
-71% of parents reported that their children developed at least one new friendship.
-89% of parents reported that their children had increased confidence with peers.

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After-School Groups & Summer Camp Parent Testimonials

"I have two boys, 7 and 6 years old. The oldest is super competitive, finds it very hard to lose but also struggles interacting socially with peers. The 6 year old is easy to teach, has many friends, is competitive but fine with winning or losing and has no problems socially. I needed to find an alternative program which would suit and benefit both boys. Through our elementary school, I found the Connect Us program which did exactly that: the boys enjoyed their activities while learning invaluable lessons and coping skills for different situations. We have participated in their programs for the past year. It is the only program we found that caters to both our kids: it is fun for and beneficial for both typically developing kids and kids who struggle with things such as social interactions; or who may have a diagnosis or who may have personal issues that prevent them from interacting appropriately in a social setting. I hope Stephanie and her team are able to continue with their good work as we would be lost without them! Thank you so much!"
-Venetia S.

"When my son, Justin entered the social skills group at Connect Us, he had social, communication and behavioral issues. Now, my son can play with other children and enjoys this time. The way Connect Us interacts with the children helps them really understand relationships. All the topics are great and much needed. It is a deep joy to witness the social life that Connect Us fosters. It's a place where kids can enjoy being themselves and being with others. It has only been 8 weeks and my son has improved so much. I always wanted a group like this and never could find one. I cannot recommend Connect Us highly enough."
-Laura S

"At the beginning of the school year both our boys, ages 6 and 8, were struggling socially. It was heartbreaking to see this and not know how to "fix" the problem. We were so lucky to find Connect Us. They gained confidence and learned strategies that have empowered them with the tools they need to blossom. Nothing can compare to the joy I feel when I see my kids surrounded by buddies, actively participating on the playground. Their teachers have been so impressed with their growth that they have asked how we can share this program with the rest of the school!"
-Sandra Y

"My girls were respected for exactly who they are, how they are. Each child is unique and the counselors at Connect Us take the time to learn what each one of them is about. Their gifts are nurtured and guidance is provided to assist the kids in becoming more balanced where applicable."
-Marisa H

"After attending Spring Social Group, Summer Camp and another session of Social Group this fall, my son had one of his best reports from school conferences yet. His teachers and the Mental Health staff reported he's made a lot of progress socially and he's shown an improvement in expressing his emotions with others. While we are constantly seeking diverse ways to help support our son, nothing additional was in place for him this fall beside the social group, so we can contribute his school success directly to the skills he is learning at Connect Us! I wish we would have started sooner!"
-Jennifer T

Recess Facilitation

Class

Youth Development 

Beneficiaries

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)
Families
Blacks, African Heritage
Hispanic, Latino Heritage
Homeless

Description

Connect Us collaborates with elementary schools to create safe and inclusive recess environments. Professionals trained in the Social Competence Inclusive Play Model (SCIP) use evidence-based strategies and input from each school to customize and implement a Recess Facilitation Program.

SCIP Recess Facilitation Programs improve the social, emotional and physical well-being of children. *Research shows that bullying, injuries and disputes decrease when children are engaged in purposeful play at recess. Studies also show that when adults engage with children on the play-ground, positive social interactions and physical activity increase.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success


"This letter is to express the significant impact Connect Us has had on the social emotional health of our students through an extensive partnership with our school. To give some context, Lowry Elementary School is a diverse community of learners. Current enrollment is approximately 520 students ECE-5th grade, with about 52% of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. 61% of our students are students of color, and about 9% of our students qualify for Special Education services. 18% of our students are English Language Learners. Some of our students and families receive support from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and have currently or recently experienced the crisis of homelessness. Our mission as a school is for both students and adults to teach and practice the five steps of self-regulation in order to grow independent problem solvers in both social-emotional and academic contexts. Connect Us has been a critical partner in helping us reach this goal.

School culture can often suffer during unstructured times. Recess in particular can be stressful. The intentional teaching and reinforcement of social and emotional skills while students are organically at play is an effective way to reach kids and address the needs of the whole child. Connect Us provides focused, personalized, and intentional engagement on a daily basis. They provide daily coaching and opportunities for students to practice skills with built-in feedback, encouragement, and support during real-life conflict. In essence, Connect Us puts teachers of social emotional learning on our playground, during recess, every single day.

Since 2016, the depth and scope of our partnership with Connect Us and their programming has expanded each year. The positive impact Connect Us has had on our student's social emotional development has been possible because of RMHS Mill Levy grants. Over the past three years, we have experienced:

• A significant decrease in behavior issues, discipline referrals to the office, peer conflict, and competitive intensity
• An extraordinary reduction in the overall annual number of suspensions (1 suspension in the 18-19 school year)
• Students who possess skills to resolve conflicts, diffuse anger, and join group activities for the first time
• A palpable shift in peer acceptance, kindness and inclusion across each grade for students with disabilities.







Discussions for the 2019-20 school year have focused on expanding Connect Us programming beyond recess and after-school enrichment. We envision the evolution of the Connect Us partnership to start with students and classes inside our building during the school day. We think the opportunity to host small group facilitation, in-class teaching support, and 1:1 support for kids with needs will take social emotional learning to the next level. It is the next logical step.

We are actively seeking partners for this important work. The impact of students with a strong social emotional skill set is not just felt at Lowry, but at the many secondary schools our students continue their educational careers in. We see an investment in Connect Us as an investment in the mental health and wellbeing of all kids.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions."

Sincerely,

Ms. Adrienne Nault
Principal
Lowry Elementary

"We are fortunate in having had the opportunity to collaborate with the Connect Us program here at High Plains Elementary School. Last year we were interested in implementing a playground program which would promote inclusiveness among our students while developing cooperative play skills.
The Connect Us staff went out of their way to help us establish our "High 5 Playground Program" and make sure that it was successfully up and running. They were actively engaged in every aspect of the implementation process from leading meetings for our parent volunteers to providing on-site training and coaching. As a result of their efforts, the playground program is now active in the first through third grades and we are looking to expand it to the fourth and fifth grades this year. We have a dedicated group of parent volunteers and more children are actively engaged during recess activities. We appreciate all of the effort Connect Us put into helping us make sure that our program was successful."

Dr. Lisa S. Wolff, Psy. D. School Psychologist,
High Plains Elementary School

To Whom It May Concern,

I am a second grade teacher at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School in the Cherry Creek School District. Our school has been fortunate to have one of our parents, Stephanie Schiff, the Executive Director of Connect Us, implement a recess facilitation program for our students a few years ago. Our school selected a recess program called "Peaceful Playgrounds" and as a Volunteer Coordinator, Mrs. Schiff's role was to assemble a team of parent volunteers to facilitate purposeful games at recess.

Recess volunteers have had a tremendous impact on the climate of our school. Adult-facilitated games have provided a safe place to go and physical play opportunities for those students who aren't comfortable playing sports, struggle with social skills or who simply have a difficult time navigating the playground during recess. In addition, parent volunteers are trained to help children quickly resolve conflicts, find friends who are alone, and offer guidance to those students who tend to dominate group activities. The outcome has been a reduction in bullying, fewer disputes carrying over into the classroom after recess, less tattling and a faster transition to instruction time.

As both a teacher and a parent of elementary-age children, I highly recommend a recess facilitation program to any school considering it. We don't think twice about offering academic support to children who need it in the classroom and it shouldn't be any different on the playground.

Thank you,
Natalie Morris


To Whom It May Concern,

As a third grade teacher, I am writing in support of the recess facilitation program offered at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School. The program was implemented by Stephanie Schiff, a parent at our school and Executive Director of Connect Us. In the three years that the program has been in operation at our school, I have noticed a decrease in aggression and emotional issues being carried in from the playground by my students. Because of the parent involvement at recess, my students have usually taken care of problems and issues from lunch and recess before they come in to the classroom. We have been able to immediately begin instruction. This has truly helped allow me to continue with academics without taking away from valuable instruction and learning time. I believe the program has helped build a more cooperative and supportive community at Cottonwood Creek. I would highly recommend implementing a recess facilitation program at the elementary school level.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I may be reached at dgaines@cherrycreekschools.org should you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Darren Gaines

Summer Camp

Class

Youth Development 

Beneficiaries

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years)
Ethnic/Racial Minorities - General
Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Homeless
People/Families with of People with Disabilities

Description

BUILDING SELF-CONFIDENCE AND FRIENDSHIP SKILLS THROUGH FUN, PHYSICAL AND CREATIVE GROUP ACTIVITIES

Age-based groups for children 3-11, facilitated by professionals trained in our SCIP model.

CONNECT THE TOTS (Preschoolers, ages 3-4):
Exploring social interaction, imagination and turn-taking through structured group play. Must be potty trained.

KINDIE PREP (Entering Kindergarten):
Enhancing social awareness, listening skills, cooperation all through play!

THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1st Graders):
Increasing resiliency, self-expression, encouragement of others and positive thinking.

GROW WITH THE FLOW (2nd & 3rd grade):
Promoting collaboration, problem-solving, flexibility and communication.

LOFTY LEADERS (4th - 5th grade):
Fostering all of the above in addition to developing leadership skills.

ACTIVITIES (examples):
• Sports/Movement: Adventure Challenges , Water Games, Playground Games & Sports, Nature Hikes, Relays, Races, and More!
• Creative/Artistic: Charades, Music, Dance, Skits, Art, Crafts & Cooking
• Team-building: Treasure Hunts, Endurance and Obstacle Courses, Leadership & Trust Exercises and So Much More!
• Special Guests: Aerial Acrobats, Chefs, Athletes, Firemen, Dancers, Martial Arts Experts, and Musicians

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

- Connect Us has served approximately 600 children in groups and summer camp programs.

- 65% of children have participated in multiple sessions.

- In 2018, our summer camper return rate was approximately 65%.

- 52% of program participants come from low-income families and received scholarships to attend camp

- 98% of participants have been referred by other Connect Us families, schools or child-service professionals.

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Parent Testimonials:

"A big thank-you to you all for providing my guys with a safe, fun place to go this summer. The biggest thing for us was that both our guys could attend - not only my Aspergers kid, but little brother too. This helps to unite them as a team and make our oldest feel "typical." They both seemed to have a better social awareness of the children around them - something lacking the older one because of his Aspergers and in the younger one because of his age. The staff was always very attentive, and approachable. I appreciated that I could give them specific information about my boys and they considered it later in the day. We were more-than-pleased with the Connect Us camp and we would (and DID) recommend them to everyone we met."
-Kim L

"Connect Us has been an immensely positive program for my 4 year old twin boys who attended their camp over the summer. For one of my boys, who has anxiety issues and a tendency to dominate situations, this program has taught him to have patience with other kids, negotiate instead of bossing them around and to just be a more positive kid. On the flip side, it has also been a great experience for my other son, teaching him to accept all personalities, learn how to play with and be kind to everyone. Stephanie leads a group of highly qualified facilitators that made my kids feel like rock stars. They are the cream of the crop! My boys couldn't wait to go to camp each day and their self-esteem and self-confidence sky rocketed. Now I don't have anxiety when my boys play with a group of kids!"
-Laura P

"My son is on the autism spectrum and my daughter is gifted so it is usually a challenge finding activities that they can both participate in. This camp was the perfect fit for our family and I was so impressed with all of the staff members that worked with my kids. They were incredibly caring and made an effort to challenge my kids while making their learning fun at the same time. I would highly recommend Connect Us to other families and am so grateful for the foundation that Connect Us laid in helping my kids get ready for school."
-Susan S

"Both my daughters are attending Connect Us camp, and are having a BLAST! These folks are AMAZING
and have really helped my youngest with the challenges she faces. For the first time EVER, she has a place she actually WANTS to go, and looks forward to coming to camp. Thank you Connect Us, for being firm with her and letting her know what is tolerated and what is not. What you've done in just a few short weeks has already made a difference for us at home. It's so nice to have support and understanding on our side, rather than the constant explanations and battles we have had with schools, daycares and other camps. All of your hard work means a lot, and both the girls and I appreciate it! "
-Shar G

"After attending Spring Social Group, Summer Camp and another session of Social Group this fall, my son had one of his best reports from school conferences yet. His teachers and the Mental Health staff reported he's made a lot of progress socially and he's shown an improvement in expressing his emotions with others. While we are constantly seeking diverse ways to help support our son, nothing additional was in place for him this fall beside the social group, so we can contribute his school success directly to the skills he is learning at Connect Us! I wish we would have started sooner!"
-Jennifer T

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