New Mindful Teen Workshop Series Engages 50 Iowa Youth in Mental Health and Well-being Learning

July 27, 2020, 2:32 pm | Tiffany Berkenes

Mindful Teen workshop participants.AMES, Iowa – From June into July, approximately 50 seventh through 12th grade youth from across the state participated in a new Iowa 4-H workshop series, The Mindful Teen: From Surviving to Thriving in a Busy World.

The workshop series is based on the book, “The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time,” by Dr. Dzung Vo, an adolescent medicine specialist and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia. Iowa 4-H Youth Development and Human Sciences staff adapted the program to offer it virtually, engaging youth via Zoom in five small groups over six weeks.

A recent survey administered by the National 4-H Council found that 64% of teens believe that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their generation’s mental health. Even before the pandemic began, 81% of teens viewed mental health as a significant issue for youth.

“During this difficult time, we are grateful to be able to provide youth with opportunities to learn healthy coping strategies and tools they can practice and apply in their current life and as future adults, as well as give them some social connection,” said 4-H youth program specialist Tiffany Berkenes.

4-H staff developed the program as part of the Iowa 4-H Healthy Living Program Priority Area and Mental Health Champions Group, seeking new and innovative ways to meet the needs and interests of adolescents and our communities. Research shows that daily mindful practice can have a significant positive impact on a person’s overall well-being – including mental health, physical health, relationships and performance in school, work, sports and the arts. The Mindful Teen workshop series helps foster mindfulness skill development and thoughtful reflection and aims to reduce stress and risk of mental illness.

A youth who participated in the virtual Mindful Teen said, “It made me feel more positive.” Another said, “It helped me feel accepted, calm, relaxed and more in control with my body and emotions.”

As a result of the program’s success and continued need, more workshops will be offered in the fall and winter. Iowa 4-H Youth Development also plans to support youth-adult partnerships by seeking young people interested in co-leading the workshop series with their peers. Additionally, a 4-H youth-adult mindfulness retreat is being planned for late spring 2021 at the Boone Y-Camp.

The 4-H mindfulness programming aligns with the Iowa Department of Education Core Standards and is being supported in part by the Iowa 4-H Foundation and an Excellence in Extension Innovative Program grant.

Iowa 4-H has begun to expand The Mindful Teen workshop series across the state to reach new audiences by training facilitators. Facilitator training is now available for current or potential 4-H volunteers, community and school partners, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach staff who are interested in implementing it in-person or virtually with youth in their area.

Facilitator training will be held via Zoom on Aug. 31, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Registration is $15, and can be completed online at For additional details about the training or questions about the Mindful Teen program, please contact Tiffany Berkenes at


Photo caption: The Mindful Teen workshop series aims to help youth feel more positive, relaxed and in control with their emotions.


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