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BridgeUp at Menninger
A Five-Year Impact Report
Fourteen should be the age when you dream about the bright future ahead of you. The age of video games and Instagram. Pizza with friends and inside jokes.

Here's the reality

Half of mental illnesses
begin by age fourteen.
One in every four to five youth meet the criteria for a mental disorder. Mental disorders are serious changes in the way youth typically learn, behave or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day. Depression, anxiety, mood and substance use disorders significantly affect a student's behavior and performance in school. While the national high school graduation rate is 85%, only 67% of students with emotional, behavioral and mental health disorders graduate.

Many students try to manage their mental health needs on their own, often with devastating effects. For adolescents and young adults, suicide is the second leading cause of death, and the rate increased nearly 60% from 2007 to 2018. We know vulnerable youth from low-income and culturally diverse communities face the most challenging barriers to care, such as cost, limited or no insurance and lack of awareness of services. In Texas alone, 67% of teens who experienced a major depressive episode had an unmet need for care.

There is hope. Prevention and early identification of mental and behavioral disorders - the focus of BridgeUp at Menninger - can improve the well-being of at-risk adolescents and even save their lives.
Remember yourself at
As we reflect on the first five years of BridgeUp at Menninger, we're asking you to think back to when you were fourteen. What was it like?

About BridgeUp at Menninger

The mission of BridgeUp at Menninger is to integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) and behavioral health in schools to enhance the well-being of vulnerable adolescents. Our work focuses on prevention and early intervention of behavioral and mental health disorders through the BridgeUp Model of (1) schoolwide SEL programs, (2) behavioral health supports and (3) collaboration.

Through a competitive process, Magic Grants are awarded to school and community partnerships to implement the BridgeUp Model. School leaders work side-by-side with the nonprofit programs and behavioral health providers that deliver services in their schools. Our vision is that families, schools and communities work together to nurture the whole child.

The BridgeUp Model

Transforming Communities through Critical Connections

The BridgeUp program is tailored at each school and district. The primary components include a campus SEL committee, SEL training for teachers and administrators, classroom SEL instruction for students and complementary SEL activities such as messaging in morning announcements, mindfulness and restorative practices.

Through a multi-tiered system of supports, students struggling with attendance, academic or behavioral issues are identified early and receive needed care, including individual or group counseling. Students considered to be high-risk are referred to The Menninger Clinic or a local mental health provider.

BridgeUp has transformed classrooms and schools into supportive communities where young people can be confident, compassionate and empowered to succeed in school and life.
33 Magic Grants. $4 million in funding. One mission.

Keylen Evans

on Empowering Students

Before SEL, Keylen felt stuck - struggling with teachers and schoolwork, unable to talk about the problems he was going through and exploding whenever he got angry. Now, he's confident in his ability to manage his emotions and is helping others do the same.
Developing Strong & Lasting Relationships
BridgeUp incorporates academic curriculum with evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs that advance the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework. Teachers are trained in SEL and develop tools and techniques that enhance student learning and classroom management approaches that support strong student-teacher relationships. In turn, students learn how to process emotions, show empathy for others, build healthy relationships, make good decisions and achieve goals - critical skills that empower personal, academic and professional success. These skillsets, such as self-awareness and social-awareness, result in meaningful relationships with peers, teachers and counselors. Better social skills, decision-making abilities and self-management lead to higher academic achievement, improved mental health and wellness, lower drug use and fewer conduct problems.
25,134 students gained essential social and emotional skills.

Melissa Garza

on Connecting Students & Teachers

Principal Melissa Garza developed a strong and welcoming community for her students and teachers with the implementation of a schoolwide SEL program. Academics and attendance have improved, and parents are choosing to stay where students have champions in Melissa and her team.
3,776 adolescents engaged in individual or group therapy.

Gisela Treviño

on Accessing Quality Care

When Andrés was in middle school, his mom noticed that her child had transformed from a happy and smiling boy into a withdrawn teenager having suicidal thoughts. Help came at a critical point when a school counselor referred the family to The Menninger Clinic for mental health treatment.
Building a Bridge to High-Quality Care
Vulnerable youth from low-income and culturally diverse communities face the most challenging barriers to care, such as cost, limited or no insurance and lack of awareness of services. These challenges often leave them to manage their mental health issues on their own and in the dark. The BridgeUp model promotes early intervention programs and treatment for those students who need more support. Educators and counselors are trained to recognize the signs that a student may need extra support and are able to quickly connect them to on-site resources, like counseling sessions and anger management groups. Schools also have access to a referral network for treatment, including evaluation, diagnosis and treatment at The Menninger Clinic or with local mental health providers. This strategic approach fosters strong relationships between families, schools and communities who work together to nurture the whole child.
BridgeUp youth received $500,000 in sponsored care at The Menninger Clinic.

Cherie' Spencer

on Amplifying Collaboration

A coalition of schools and community service organizations have combined forces to make joint decisions, share SEL best practices and multiply their impact. Today, that coalition, Causeway Galveston, is working to expand the BridgeUp model to every school and child on the island.
Creating the Future through Collaboration
The BridgeUp Model uses a collective impact approach to enhance program delivery and development. Magic Grants recipients incorporate collaboration in three ways: they implement rapid-cycle continuous improvement into their program design, interact with school partners as fully engaged collaborators and share best practices at quarterly Impact Network meetings. By fostering a collaborative learning environment with our school-community partnerships and using nationally validated interventions, we develop a network of scalable, responsive behavioral and mental health programs that support the needs of at-risk youth.
Magic Grants partners have leveraged BridgeUp funding to garner an additional $9.1 million.
Who could you turn to at
"Sometimes I'm like, 'Do people even care about me?' 'Do my friends even like me?' 'Do I look weird?' It's sad because it's not only me, it's millions of people, but thanks to SEL lessons, I and other people can learn there's at least one person who cares about you."
Student Testimonial

Program Outcomes

Decades of research demonstrate the benefits of social and emotional learning, including: improvement in students' social and emotional skills, attitudes, relationships and academic performance - and declines in students' anxiety, behavior problems and substance use ( Our BridgeUp partners report program outcomes that support the case for SEL and the BridgeUp Model.
91% of De Zavala Middle School students feel there is at least one person on campus who cares about them, up from 85% at the beginning of the year.
92% of KIPP Connect students passed the Algebra I course exam, compared to 83% in the previous year. Teacher testimonials name SEL as instrumental in academic achievement.
14% decrease in disciplinary suspensions over three years due to improved student behavior and discipline policy changes at De Zavala Middle School.
80% decrease in student suicide risk compared to the previous year at Infinity Early College High School, attributed to additional behavioral health services.
Who did you dream of becoming at
During the SEL lesson "My Future Self," a student wrote, "Dear Fernando, I hope you turn into a therapist. I know you like helping people. Remember, never give up."

Building a Bridge to the Future Together

Adolescence is an important period for brain growth and development. It is also the time when physical, mental, emotional and social changes can lead to mental health challenges for many teens. Since half of mental illnesses develop before age 14, it is imperative that we create ways to identify the warning signs sooner rather than later. Providing early care for adolescents reduces the severity of mental illness, recovery time and educational disruption.

Listening to Cherie', Melissa, Gisela and Keylen, we know the tremendous impact that BridgeUp at Menninger has had on adolescent mental health across Greater Houston throughout our first five years. Now, we are dreaming big and working to scale and share our work across the region, state and the nation to meet the mental health needs of our young people. We know fourteen does not have to be an age of crisis when it can be an age of connection.
Remember yourself at
As an adult remembering what it was like to be fourteen, what would you want to tell the young people in your life now?

Magic Grants Recipients 2016-2020

View 2016-2020 Magic Grants Recipients

Advisory Committee 2015-2019

BridgeUp at Menninger's Advisory Committee, comprised of experts in health, mental health and education, was involved in the development and oversight of the BridgeUp Magic Grants.
View 2015-2019 Advisory Committee

In Appreciation

We give special thanks to the Menninger clinicians who go out of their way to reduce barriers and provide exceptional care for BridgeUp students.
View Clinicians