Young people across Identity experienced new adventures, had fun learning and made new friends during our Alternative Spring Break – turning what could be a risky and unsupervised time into a positive and enriching week.  

Among the many activities enjoyed by students from elementary through high school: middle-schoolers went all-in on STEM, teens in the Bridge to Wellness program volunteered to beautify their schools and parks and ended the week together at Six Flags, and teens enrolled in Wellness Centers camped out at Manidokan Camp on the Potomac River. 

Middle Schoolers Don White Coats at Montgomery College 

A group of middle schoolers spent three amazing days at Montgomery College building skeletons, controlling robots, identifying meteorites and learning how to take each other’s pulse during an intensive hands-on STEM program. On the last day, their parents attended a student showcase and a presentation from the college about how to support and open doors for their children in STEM careers. “The goal is to give students a comfort level in science,” says Identity’s Brayan Rivas, “and to help them see themselves in college and STEM careers. For instance, the professor who taught the kids how their hearts work told them, ‘I hope to see you guys take care of me one day.’” 

STEM Theme from Books to Hands-on Museums for Young Readers 

Participants in Identity after-school programs in four elementary schools also went all-in on science during Spring Break. Students at the 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Harriet R. Tubman and Whetstone Elementary schools started the week reading about animals, metamorphosis and the ecosystem and ended the week at the Maryland Science Center. In-between there were lots of hands-on science activities and fun outdoor games. And Identity students from Gaithersburg and Summit Hall elementary schools enjoyed their own hands-on STEM exploration of the environment including planting seeds and a full day field trip to Port Discovery Children’s Museum. 

Bridge to Wellness Teens Beautify Their Neighborhoods  

Staff working in eight Bridge to Wellness programs for high schoolers organized four days of activities to care for the environment and themselves, and a fifth day of pure fun at Six Flags America. Students at many of the schools picked up trash around their school and the surrounding neighborhoods. They also enjoyed the healing power of nature with picnics and sports field days. Springbrook High School students created self-care kits for their families and themselves. Clarksburg High School Bridge to Wellness staff turned a rainy trip to the zoo into a self-care adventure, incorporating mindfulness exercises while enjoying the baby bear cubs and other animals playing in the rain. Clarksburg Youth Development Specialist Astrid Medina says for most of the students, it was their first time ever going to a zoo, and the rain made it more fun for the animals and the students! 

For the big finish, students from all 8 schools bussed to Six Flags America amusement park – an experience many of the teens thought was beyond their reach – where unseasonably chilly weather didn’t stop 75 students (and many staff) from trying the scariest rides. Springbrook Youth Development Specialist Ashley Olortegui says the weather worked in their favor because the lines were short! “They just loved not being home,” Ashley says, “they want something to do, and it gives them time to interact with friends outside of school.” Astrid Medina agrees. “It’s nice to see our students making new friends from other schools, seeing them bond. It reminds us how much we love what we do!” 

Wellness Centers ‘Be Yourself’ Retreat 

Students from the Seneca Valley, Gaithersburg and Watkins Mill High School Wellness Centers who participated in Identity’s “Be Yourself” social-emotional skill building curriculum ended Spring Break with a two-day retreat at the Manidokan Camp on the Potomac River in Knoxville, Maryland. The retreat combined team-building activities and social-emotional skill-building in a beautiful natural setting. 

Youth Development Specialist Rebeca Monterroso from the Seneca Valley High School Wellness Center says staff worked hard to mix up the students so they spent time with peers from other schools. Her favorite activity was the evening bonfire. “All the schools mix with one another. Music, hotdogs and s’mores – it’s nice to see them let loose and enjoy the moment.” Building a strong group of peers and trusted adults helps young people stay connected to their school community and their education.