By Anna Alejo

DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver Public School in Montbello is taking therapy to the front yard of family homes in order to promote the mental wellness of its students. Academy 360 hired family therapist Ron Allen to ensure students received the same emotional support and structure at home – whether it’s from parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles – that they were receiving at school.

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Allen has been meeting with 13-year-old Manuel Galvan Martinez for a couple of years. Martinez moved on from Academy 360, where his sisters are still enrolled. His mentor and therapist, Allen, still maintains the bond they developed when Martinez was in grade school.

“That I would come to him, that he meant that much to me, that I would come and say ‘hey we want to continue this. You can do this,'” Allen said.

Allen and Martinez work to develop skills such as how to manage frustration and how to advocate for oneself. Martinez’s mom, Shelly Martinez, said, “I’m very proud of Manuel. He’s worked very hard to get to where he’s at now.”

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The yard therapy, or “Yardwork” as it’s known, is one element of a comprehensive effort at Academy 360 to build strong relationships with every student, and to ensure they learn early how to regulate emotions so they can flourish academically.

Executive Director of Academy 360 Becky McClean said, “Training some of our family members to use some of the same language that we use here at school for that ease of transition so what they hear from their teachers and staff members here at school, they’re also getting similar language at home with their parents and their grandparents.”

Manuel is doing well in middle school, thanks to the coping strategies he’s learned.

“He has all the strategies he needs to be successful so he’s been doing very good,” his mother said.

Allen added about the conversations focused on mental health, “This is something that he can be open with, and I can be open with him and actually it’s just having a conversation and a listening ear to me is therapy.”

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Find more about Academy 360’s work in mental health and its Whole Family Supports model.

This Thursday is Mental Health Action Day, and CBS News Colorado is streaming a Community Conversation on Mental Health. You can catch the special right after CBS4 News at 6 p.m. on May 19.

CBS News Colorado is partnering with MTV on “Mental Health is Health” seeking to improve mental health in our community by normalizing conversation about mental health, sharing resources, and highlighting groups taking action to help others thrive.

Anna Alejo