Building a foundation for youth and young adults to live in a state of physical, mental, and social wellness.
The core idea of our work:
To address the rising challenges in youth, well-being, social connection, and the negative impact of technology on mental health. The initiative, a collaboration between Big Picture (BPL) and Kinnected LLC, aims to create a multi-school international pilot program. The key elements include individualized well-being learning plans for students, a social health platform (Kinnected) for personal and interpersonal conversations, and a shift toward reimagining schools and social media as allies in promoting healthy connections.
The main social problem:
This initiative seeks to address the escalating rates of social anxiety, loneliness, suicide, and depression among youth, both nationally and globally. The impact of this problem is profound, with studies revealing alarming trends, such as a significant increase in teenage girls reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and a rising number seriously considering self-harm or harming others. The persisting issue stems from the pervasive influence of social media, particularly platforms targeting youth for financial gain, at the expense of their current well-being and the development of healthy habits essential for adulthood. Additionally, the traditional school system's hyper-focus on academic performance, coupled with the increasing implementation of technology without sufficient guidance, further contributes to the disconnect, superficial encounters, and mental health challenges faced by younger students.
The strategy for scaling impact:
We project a phased approach, with the initial focus on a pilot program in 15-20 Big Picture schools in the United States and other countries. The plan includes preparing school systems and customizing the Kinnected platform in the first six months, followed by anchoring the platform in schools, personnel hiring, training, and implementation in the next six months. The aim is to create a robust, cross-cultural healthy ecosystem and social safety net for students, with a particular emphasis on tracking results related to self-care awareness, mental health, and peer support. The collaboration with Mathematica and potential involvement of experts like Karen Arnold or Jane Davidson underscores a commitment to a longitudinal case study with implications for global health. If successful in 5-10 years, the vision is to have a broader scope, with well-established and sustainable programs in schools globally, contributing to a significant positive shift in youth well-being, mental health, and healthy connections.
Mission: Reimagining school as allies, and social media as social health, providing tools for teaching youth and young adults healthy and affirming ways to connect with each other and the world, leading to vibrant relationships that support growth and development of a more compassionate and graceful society
Vision: Youth and young adults living in a state of physical, mental, and social wellness supported by healthy connections and interactions in the modern world.
Values: Empathy, Inclusivity, Authenticity, Well-being, Life-long learning
Megan Haas is a long-time strategist and founder, focused on building creative, rational solutions to fill the gaps in our societal systems. Megan has spent the last 30 years developing businesses from the visionary phase into community centered enterprises. Megan founded the Front Porch School in 1992, bridging education and socialization for rural, home-schooled girls in NC. Moving to WA, in 1996, she co-founded Utilikilts Co and created Kinnected.org, a global social-health sanctuary promoting resilience and empathy through peer connections and shared health experiences.
Megan’s passion for health and education dovetailed during the pandemic when she started the Madrona Village School, a microschool for elementary students, now in its 4th year. Realizing the urgent need for students to steward their self-health, while finding empowerment and connection through more humane forms of technology, Megan facilitated Jeff, Julia, John, and Kaelen, to become a collaborative force to bring social wellness into school systems.
John Kim is an experienced leader, successful in forming strategies and delivering multi-dimensional enterprise results. Skilled in visioning, communicating, facilitating, and implementing. Creative and critical thinker able to develop innovative solutions that balance social justice and equity issues with fiscal responsibility and business imperatives. John was previously the Executive Director of the Pacific Hospital Preservation Authority, and has continued his work in health equity, now as the CEO of Healthier Here.
John’s role: John has been and continues to be a mentor and advisor for this project, bringing years of health education, equity, diversity and inclusion, and community organization to the table.
Jeff’s teaching career started at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), where for several years he led multi-week mountaineering expeditions in Washington, British Columbia, and Patagonia. In the mid-1990’s, motivated by books like Savage Inequalities, The Good High School, and Beloved, Jeff began transitioning to public education with an interest in countering the ways that schools reinforce this country’s persistent racial disparities. For the past 25+ years, Jeff has worked as a public school teacher and administrator and as a consultant to schools and school districts. In 2005, Jeff founded Highline Big Picture and served as its principal for eight years. He then transitioned to be the first northwest regional director for Big Picture Learning, where he stewarded a growing regional network of partner schools in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon and advocated for various policy changes to support interest-driven learning. He also started a principal leadership incubator called School Foundry, supporting new school leaders through the design and launch of new public schools, including several of Washington’s recently-opened charter schools.
Kaelen Larocque is currently employed as a Middle School teacher where she has had 5 years of experience in the field. Kaelen Larocque joined Kinnected/Big Picture through Northeastern’s Graduate Program where she focused on e-learning and creating curriculum that supports mental, social and emotional well-being. Kaelen is extremely passionate about this work and went into education in efforts to be a part of the change as she sees the disservice schools are doing to children and students around the world, when it comes to technology.
Kaelen’s role: At Kinnected/Big Picture, Kaelen is responsible for ongoing research, fundraising opportunities, organizing the team’s materials and delegating tasks.
Julia Kassissieh has 25 years of education experience spanning the areas of independent school leadership, middle school teaching, and instructional leadership consulting in public and private schools. Julia has published numerous articles describing successful secondary school improvement efforts aimed at increasing graduation rates and post-secondary opportunities for traditionally underserved students. Julia has a master’s degree in curriculum and teacher education from Stanford University and is a credentialed administrator and teacher. From 2006-to 2013, she served as a trustee and executive committee member for the Portland Children’s Museum in Portland, and was Head of Middle School at Seattle Academy 2016-2022. Julia is a recent fellow of the Pathways to Leadership program at the Northwest Association of Independent Schools, a program for women aspiring to head of school roles in the region. Julia will be liaising between Kinnected and Big Picture, understanding the developmental needs of the students and translating them into standards of privacy and security that will be built into the platform.
Contact Megan Haas for an executive summary and slide deck: email@example.com