Hershey: Helping Youth Spark Connection and Create Community to Support Well-Being

Originally published on thehersheycompany.com by Katrina Briddell
Manager, Sustainability & Social Impact

During these past several weeks of social distancing, the topics of connection and well-being have come into sharper focus more than ever. Whether it’s navigating new ways to work and learn virtually, coping with not being able to connect with friends and loved ones as before, or noticing how changes both big and small in our lives impact our mental health—the importance of connection and well-being is paramount these days, for old and young alike.

As a company with a longstanding commitment to helping kids succeed, we recognize that children and teens thrive most when they not only have physical health and access to quality education, but especially when they have social and emotional support and skills. This includes meaningful connections to peers, caring adults and their community. That’s why we created Hershey’s Heartwarming Project in 2018 and have partnered with leading youth-serving organizations that support connection and well-being, including Boys & Girls Clubs of AmericaCrisis Text LineMaking Caring Common, and WE.

These days, many of us are deeply concerned about what this pandemic will mean for youth well-being and connection—but we also celebrate the fact that now more than ever, young people are leading the way when it comes to these topics. That’s why we’re excited to partner with WE, a global movement, to sponsor a special one-hour Facebook Live event for youth, featuring youth – exploring the relationship between connection and well-being. LIVE with WE Schools: Spark Connection, Create Community will feature WE ambassadors, students and experts, and will focus on the importance of well-being and connection as we navigate these challenging times together. Please join us for the event or catch it afterwards here.

We’re also excited to announce the expansion of the Heartwarming Project Action Grants program on May 15th, which celebrates teens who take action in their homes, schools and communities to increase connection, empathy and inclusion. This year, we will select 500 teens across the U.S. and Canada to receive $250 action grants to spark connection and create community where they live. Last year, nearly 300 teens received grants to jumpstart amazing projects—such as starting kindness clubs, creating “well-being lounges” to combat stress in high schools, and hosting fun “come as you are” events focused on inclusion. This year, we’re so excited to celebrate even more teens who are finding creative ways to connect and build community during these times.

While the weeks and months ahead feel uncertain and challenging, it’s the stories of connection and care across our communities that bring me hope. So, I’d like to leave you with a challenge if you’re willing: Whether it’s tuning in on May 15th, sharing the Action Grants opportunity with a young person you know, or taking your own “heartwarming” action to boost connection and well-being, how will you spark connection and create community these days?

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