Building Resiliency in Area Youth

The Life is Good Playmakers pilot program utilizes the power of optimism.

By Christina Schechtman

Researchers in UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services have partnered with the Life is Good Kids Foundation on a pilot program in New Hanover County working with children ages 5-15. The Life is Good Playmakers (LIGP) program utilizes the power of optimism to build resilience to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which include various forms of abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.

The LIGP approach works to limit the long-term effects of ACEs on the brain and body by teaching clinicians and educators how to apply trauma- and resilience-informed approaches and cultivate both an educational and healing environment for children. The program leads, Anka Roberto (School of Nursing) and Josalin Hunter-Jones (School of Social Work), launched the pilot program in July 2018 after experiencing firsthand the power of resiliency.
 
While Roberto found resilience-informed approaches to be extremely impactful during her work in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting, Hunter-Jones was drawn to the method by reflecting on her personal journey.
 
“I have certainly experienced my fair share of trauma starting during my childhood years, and I want very much to help others, provide hope, and remind people how resilient they are in the face of even the most difficult adversity,” said Hunter-Jones. “That kind of support is what helped me through difficult times, and I want that for others.”
 
One of the program’s primary objectives is to create a culture of leaders around the region, training individuals to spread the “Playmaker” strategy to others via orientations and workshops. Nationally, the LIGP program has reached more than 10,000 youth and trained 2,270 Playmakers in 2018 alone.
 
“We piloted the program in a small therapeutic school with great success, training 45 playmakers and getting positive responses from key stakeholders of its benefit to staff and the children they serve,” said Roberto. “Our aim is to work with service providers in mental health across the region, reaching educators and staff across New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties. Our pilot project has already identified six regional Playmakers that are willing and able to help others be successful in implementing this model in their environments helping children.”