Steel Smiling is proud to share that our third cohort, BTB3, has graduated from the Beams to Bridges program! - our Black-centered mental health and wellness education and training program.
Throughout the six-month long, once-weekly classes, BTB3 cohort members learned about taking good care of themselves and how to become Community Mental Health Advocates who are trained to help their loved ones identify and seek support for a variety of mental health needs ranging from trauma, substance use and recovery, grief and loss, and more.
Our Operations Director, Courtney Abegunde, had this to say about this cohort:
“Thank you and congratulations to BTB3! It’s important that our communities have trusted friends, family members, and neighbors who are supportive of mental health and wellbeing. Our Community Mental Health Advocates are champions of self-care and community care, ready to lend their support and gifts to our community. Thank you BTB3 for showing up every week with empathy, humility, and passion. We are so grateful to have this cohort join our Steel Smiling family!”
The celebratory event was held last week on Monday, October 16th at the Kingsley Association, which has served as our community-based partner site for BTB3 classes the past several months.
When the BTB3 cohort members and their loved ones arrived, they were welcomed to a delicious meal catered by Jackie Kennedy Catering, and a beautifully decorated event space, dessert table, and photo backdrop courtesy of Samonia Nathan. Of course, when a photo backdrop is involved, Steel Smiling wants our pictures to be official! So – we brought in Tom King Productions to ensure all the joy, celebration, and pride of the day was captured and commemorated. (All the photos used in this article are his work!)
To commemorate and honor the experience, BTB3 Graduates each received and took home “Unconventional Portraits” they created earlier in the year. The Unconventional Portraits were included in the BTB3 curriculum as an artistic expression project facilitated by artist Noa Mims. To develop the portraits, Noa and the cohort members creatively reused materials to collage representations of each of their unique personalities and identities. Our collaboration with Mims Ceramics was made possible through Steel Smiling’s participation in the Public Art in Communities (PAC) program. Public Art and Communities is a collaboration between the Office for Public Art, Neighborhood Allies, and the Borough of Millvale, and is funded through the generous support of The Heinz Endowments, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, and the Our Town program of the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
BTB3 graduates each also shared their personal reflections and insights on their time in the course. Collectively, they spoke about the growth and change they each underwent during their time in Beams to Bridges – as well as the running joke of the evening about the need to find new plans for Monday evenings moving forward.
The evening concluded with Steel Smiling’s Founder and Managing Director, Julius Boatwright offering closing remarks and reminding the BTB3 Community Mental Health Advocates and their loved ones that “healing is a birthright- you don’t have to do anything to deserve it. It’s ours and we deserve it.”
Steel Smiling is proud to introduce Pittsburgh’s next class of Community Mental Health Advocates, the Beams to Bridges 3 Cohort! As our BTB Trainer Rick Bigelow often says, “it’s not a program, it’s a lifestyle!”
Meet the Graduates: Brandon Baker, Darronte Buckner, Nicole Glaze, Toya Glaze, Alana Griffin, Charece Lyons, Tanisha Thomas and Thomas Tyson *We had a few community members who were unable to complete the course for personal reasons. However, we look forward to welcoming them back in future cohorts when timing better aligns for their lives.