FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Aug. 28, 2019) -- Dozens of Fort Drum teenagers learned some team-leading, critical thinking and problem-solving skills this summer through a Child and Youth Service Teen Resilience training program.

The Fort Drum CYS hosted five two-day Teen Mind Labs, with 55 participants between the ages of 12 and 18. The labs were developed to pair Ready and Resilient (R2) skills with an overall goal of enhancing a mental attribute with hands-on activities and field trips to physically test the learned concepts.

Although tailored for Army teens, the activities were similar to the R2 training that Soldiers conduct to strengthen personal readiness by teaching them how to manage adversity, cope with stress and build self-awareness.

Matt Rogers, Fort Drum's school liaison officer and a CYS master resilience trainer, said that the CYS resiliency curriculum was developed in 2015 to create new and dynamic activities to broaden the skill base for community teens. Fort Drum CYS was awarded a U.S. Army Installation Management Command Teen Resilience Kickstarter grant in 2018 at the same time CYS staff members across the Army were being asked to attend Master Resilience Training.

"The timing allowed Fort Drum CYS to look at Teen Resiliency Training through a fresh set of eyes," Rogers said. "Our vision was to be creative with crafting experiences for teens, so they can learn beneficial cognitive skills. We submerge them in situations where these newly learned skills are put to the test, all while having a good time."

In one skills lab, students learned how easy it is for the mind to become preoccupied with counterproductive thoughts. The group activity had them organize a series of downward spiraling thoughts, so they could practice taking purposeful action while trying to control their emotions.

Another lab was aimed at leadership skills, and participants discussed personal character strengths and learned how using the strengths of each individual can develop an effective team and the ability to lead others. They also practiced assertive communication skills, to include effective praise and active constructive responses.

"The core concepts of what is being taught mirrors R2 training our Soldiers receive," Rogers said. "However, different from the adult training, our format is more hands-on with games, activities and experiential learning opportunities which pair nicely with the overarching skills and concepts being taught."

Rogers said that the interactive nature of the classes makes students more comfortable to discuss their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

"In addition, the teen curriculum uses age-appropriate examples and situations to make it easier to grasp sometimes complex topics," he added.

Resiliency isn't an easy concept for some people to grasp, or understand the relevance it plays in their lives. Rogers said that military children in particular face unique challenges with duty station moves and parents who deploy.

"Their ability to bounce back and thrive in the face of adversity not only is beneficial to them, but it impacts the readiness of their active-duty parent," he said. "It's also important to highlight that each one of them has at least some resiliency training already built in."

One high school senior attended a recent resiliency course with initial skepticism, believing that she was already well-versed in all issues relating to family life in the military. She wrote about her experience in a CYS Ready and Resilient newsletter, surprised by what she gained from learning resiliency skills.

Rogers said that one activity asks teens to touch an object with their hands. Then, they imagine that everyone's arms are missing and they have to find another way to touch without hands.

"Resilient people come up with other ways of accomplishing tasks when the typical way isn't an option," Rogers said. "A simple example of proving to them that they have flexible thinking habits helps to capture the essence of resiliency and sets the stage for the entire workshop."

Rogers said that CYS has incorporated R2 training in staff development days, with 386 employees receiving various skills training since last October. The Fort Drum CYS currently has two certified master resilience trainers.

"We have also conducted R2 training in various Fort Drum-connected schools," Rogers added. "Last school year, 108 middle school and high school students participated in training, as well as 28 faculty members."

Rogers said that the student feedback indicated that this was a worthwhile program to them, especially considering that participants sacrificed some of their summer break. He said that additional Teen Mind Labs will be conducted during future school breaks.

"The long-term goal is to work with staff members to incorporate R2 skills into current CYS programs and lessons so that we can enhance resiliency in children across Fort Drum CYS," Rogers said.

Fort Drum CYS recently was awarded an additional IMCOM Teen Resilience grant that will help sustain the program on post, and broaden it.

"With this next round of resiliency funding, we plan to incorporate a family aspect into R2 skills training," Rogers said. "I'm optimistic that having parents and teens take part in skills training and activities together will help develop more resilient families."

"If we can get our families thinking and speaking the same resilient language at home, it should enable better communication in the household and strengthen their connections with each other," he added. "Our hope is that it will also aid in student performance at school and in Soldier readiness."

To learn more about Fort Drum CYS and its Teen Resiliency Program, visit https://drum.armymwr.com/programs/childandyouthservices or https://www.facebook.com/Fort-Drum-CYS-Youth-Program-Youth-Center.