A new educational curriculum aims to help Florida students triumph over hardships in their lives, including mental health challenges.
That’s the goal of Resiliency Florida, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced during a press conference Friday.
And big athletic names including international soccer player David Beckham and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning endorse the initiative.
Resiliency Florida provides a curriculum to help teachers instruct students regarding skills such as problem solving, responsibility, and overcoming adversity. Other goals encourage outside play and exercise, volunteer work and mentorship, empathy, gratitude, and respect.
The announcement marks a continuation of First Lady DeSantis’ goal of improving the state of mental health among Florida’s children.
“We are changing the narrative on mental health and changing it to resiliency and hope,” she said during the news conference at Orlando’s Amway Center.
The Resiliency Toolkit is available on CPalms, a resource for educators planning classroom lessons. Each topic features activities based on age group to help students work on these soft skills.
For example, an exercise for elementary school students learning empathy allows them to read about a fictional person’s bad day at school and asks how they would feel in the same situation. Families could also use the resources to encourage these skills at home.
DeSantis said the new curriculum is designed to combat stigma around mental health problems by celebrating resiliency and overcoming challenges.
Which is why professional sports teams are involved.
As a part of the initiative, First Lady DeSantis highlighted a partnership with Florida’s professional athletes as advocates of perseverance.
“It’s one thing for me to say all this,” she said. “But it is something quite different if professional athletes, who are already respected and looked up to by millions of kids across this state, lend their voice and their story of being resilient and persevering through tough times.”
A presentation showed more than 15 professional athletes endorsing that message. Only one female athlete was featured — Crystal Thomas of the soccer team Orlando Pride.
The Orlando Magic, the Miami Dolphins, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, plus NASCAR, are among the participating organizations.
“The athletes are going to be on the front lines of communicating this message of resiliency and hope directly to Florida’s children,” DeSantis said.
One reporter noted that stress at home is a contributor to childhood mental health problems. The reporter addressed Gov. Ron DeSantis, who attended the news conference, and brought up families still waiting on unemployment benefits.
The governor didn’t interpret that as a relevant question.
“I see what you’re trying to do here. If you guys have something on topic I’ll be happy to do it,” he said.
But the First Lady jumped in anyway: “Can I say, though — for the stress component, I would say this: Opening the schools and opening the economy is one of the greatest things you can do to the emotional well-being of everybody of this state.”
She applauded her husband for reopening brick-and-mortar schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.