With $100,000 Grant, The Depot Brings Choose Love to Darien Middle Schoolers

(Darien, CT, August 12, 2019) The Darien Foundation has awarded a three-year grant totaling $100,000 to The Depot Youth Center in Darien to fund a new middle school age initiative, launching in the 2019-2020 school year. The grant will endow The Depot’s new Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement program for 7thand 8thgrade boys and girls and also fund improvements and upgrades to The Depot’s facility to accommodate increased attendance and foot traffic.

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, endowed by The Darien Foundation, will launch with an informational meeting for 7thand 8thgraders and their parents on September 9that 7pm at the Depot. The program will officially start on Monday, September 23rdat 3pm for 7thgrade and 4:15pm for 8thgrade, again taking place at the Depot. The Choose Love curriculum will be adapted to bimonthly meetings and rolled out to more age groups in the following years. The curriculum content includes: gratitude, forgiveness, courage, and compassion in action. Jesse Lewis was one of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. 

The Darien Foundation grant of $33,333 each year for the next three school years will allow The Depot to continue to respond to the needs of Darien youth and to address emerging troubles facing the middle school age peer group. “After looking for an appropriate social and emotional learning (SEL) program to be held at The Depot, nothing felt more organic than Choose Love”, said Jenny Tarleton, Depot Co-President. Laura Emerson, a Hindley School teacher who helped create the curriculum with the Movement’s founder, Scarlet Lewis, a Darien native, will lead the program at The Depot. “The compelling Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum of the Choose Love Movement aligns within The Darien Foundation’s mission to support and to promote opportunity for our town’s youth,” said Sarah Woodberry, Executive Director. “We are pleased to work with The Depot to help them expand and open their doors to middle school students.”

Results from the 2018 Strengths & Supports in the Lives of MMS Youth survey, shows Darien 7th and 8thgraders appear to be most troubled with their constructive use of time and are in need of opportunities outside of school to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults. They will also benefit from positive identity, self-worth and coping skills. The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement teaches individuals how to choose love in any circumstance, to manage emotions using proper tools and skills, to make positive and pro-social choices, and to have healthy relationships and meaningful connections. Catherine McNear, Depot Co-President stated, “Now more than ever, The Depot needs to get involved and help empower our middle schoolers as well so they can thrive.”

The grant comes at a great time, explained Kesti Aysseh, Executive Director of Development for the Depot, as The Depot is simultaneously launching a 30thAnniversary Endowment Campaign. “With The Darien Foundation’s support of our mission and this much needed initiative for middle schoolers, we are hoping the awareness will propagate further corporate and private donations to sustain all The Depot programming and events for years to come.”

An inaugural event sponsored by The Depot and The Darien Foundation will take place on October 22ndat the DCA to welcome Scarlet Lewis to share her story of how her son Jesse inspired the Choose Love Movement. Tickets will go on sale soon. Information regarding registration and the event can be found at www.dariendepot.com or contact Kesti Aysseh at 203-470-4614.