THRIVE program seeks to empower youth well-being amid time of high depression

PARK CITY, Utah — The THRIVE program, launched by local nonprofit Live Like Sam and WeBeWell, is currently accepting applications until the end of the month for its summer program.

“We view ourselves as youth prevention through positive programming,” said Ron Jackenthal, co-founder and executive director of the Live Like Sam Foundation and lead marketer of THRIVE in Summit County. “Our THRIVE program is really around teaching lessons that enhance life skills… giving kids kind of a tool belt of different resources to pull from.”

A 2019 survey of student health and risk prevention needs at Park City High School (PCHS) found that 68% of students experienced moderate to high depressive symptoms. It was reported in the same survey that 44% of students had moderate to high mental health treatment needs.

The loneliness and isolation of the pandemic have made things worse.

According to a new CDC study, the number of American high school students who say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” has increased from 26% in 2009 to 44% in 2021.

“Across the country we have witnessed dramatic increases in Emergency Department visits for all mental health emergencies including suspected suicide attempts,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said in October.

THRIVE seeks to combat this rise by giving teens a framework to tackle mental health issues.

“Our tendency is to want to protect our kids,” Jackenthal said. “We’re so emotionally tied to making sure our kids are safe, that we forget that a real opportunity is in teaching them to fish versus giving them a fish. Giving them the tools so that when we’re not there with them, they can resolve problems on their own and just have better well-being.”

Each THRIVE participant is part of a cohort of up to 10 students.  The program consists of a combination of weekly individual assignments and Zoom group meetings.  Each session runs for six weeks, but may be spread over eight weeks, depending on school breaks. 

Each week, students spend up to an hour on their own to learn about skills, using the WeBeWell app.  They then meet at a designated weekly day and time with their cohort to connect and complete specific exercises.  In the sessions, participants discuss techniques that promote well-being, learn relevant coping strategies, and share their challenges and successes.  

A select team of trained facilitators leads the group sessions. 

Lessons include:

  • Applying well-being and happiness behaviors
  • Identifying personal strengths and values
  • Goal-setting activities to build a thriving life and well-being
  • Stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness and other cognitive coping strategies
  • Activating healthy behaviors
  • Creating and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Cultivating positive thoughts, emotions, and habits

The summer program will run from the week of July 3 through the week of Aug. 7.

Participants must be at least 14 years old (9th grade or higher) when the program starts, and are required to either reside in Summit County or attend school within the county.

The program has a value of $425 per student, but is currently free to participants, thanks to donations to the Live Like Sam Foundation. Students who complete the program and attend five out of six sessions will receive an $80 research stipend.


Participants will be placed into a cohort that meets on one of the days/times below:

Tuesdays, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Wednesdays, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Wednesdays, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Wednesdays, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Wednesdays, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Wednesdays, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Thursdays, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Fridays, 10:00 am – 11:00 am

THRIVE plans to expand to grades 5-8 in the fall. Current programming for that age group is available through summer camps offered by Basin Recreation and the Park City School District.

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