OMM Teen Center program wins Morgan Stanley “Innovation Award”

This spring, Our Minds Matter was named a 2024 winner of the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health Innovation Award. The award recognizes the innovation and impact of our new teen center program, piloted in the 2023-24 school year in all 13 teen and community centers in Fairfax County.

As part of this award, a filmmaking team produced this inspiring, 2-minute video about the program. We’re so thrilled to share:    

about the award

Morgan Stanley’s Innovation Award, given to just five non-profit organizations each year, is designed to identify and support transformative mental healthcare solutions. Not only does OMM receive a $100,000 grant, we also get to participate in opportunities for capacity and leadership development (of which the video shared above is just one example).

We want to share our thanks with our partners at Neighborhood and Community Services of Fairfax County, the government agency that oversees the centers where our program runs. 

thank you to our generous supporters!

As we head into the second year of this pilot in the 2024-25 school year, we are grateful to the supporters enabling us to keep growing our impact, including not just Morgan Stanley but Fairfax County, the PHS Commissioned Officers Foundation Barclay-Giel Seed Grant, and all of the institutional and government funders who provide general operating support for OMM.

And we are grateful to our wide community of supporters and donors. Your gifts, large and small, have helped OMM grow over the years, have given us the space to dream big, and enabled us to design new ways to reach teens where they are.

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and keep OMM’s innovative programming going strong.

learn more about our teen center program: 

OMM designed this pilot program by adapting our successful high school and middle school program model, using insights from focus groups we conducted with teen center staff and teens themselves. The program is reaching teens who face barriers to participating in school clubs; for example, because they need to care for a sibling, or work a job. About 93% of participants in the program are BIPOC, about 59% are cisgender boys/men, and about 77% are in grades 7, 8, or 9, which are all important groups to reach for mental health equity.

We originally set a goal to serve 100 teens directly in the first year of the program — a goal which we exceeded by December. As of May, we’ve already served more than 250 unique teens in the program.  

Meeting this goal was an encouraging milestone, validating that our program model is genuinely engaging and meaningful for teens. But it’s also a galvanizing reminder of the high need for mental health support in these community spaces.

In the early phase of the teen center pilot, OMM program coordinators visit each site to lead OMM activities directly with teens. At the same time, they’re training teen center staff; as the pilot progresses, staff are gradually taking more responsibility of the program, toward the goal of running OMM clubs sustainably into the future. 

Teens themselves are enthusiastic about the program. At a recent meeting at the Cathy Hudgins Community Center in Reston, VA, program coordinator Ramona Plummer began the session with an opening connection called “Smoke, Spark, Fire.”

Opening connections are a foundational part of the OMM program; in a world where teens face intense pressure from social media, these structured conversations create space for teens to show up as their authentic selves and build comfort with talking about what they’re going through, while also practicing focusing on positive things in their own lives. 

“Smoke, Spark, Fire,” for example, invites teens to share something that is clouding their minds (smoke), something they are newly interested in (spark), and something they have enjoyed for a long time (fire). The teens at Cathy Hudgins enjoyed the conversation; at the end of the program, after completing a vision board activity and a “mindful closing,” one of the teens told Ramona: OMM is my new spark.”