In 1999, Jennifer Freed, Ph.D., and Rendy Freedman, MFT, co-founded AHA! in response to the Columbine High School massacre. Together with a group of friends, they ran a summer program for local teens to develop relational skills through group process and the creative arts. The program received so much positive feedback from adults and youth alike, that Jennifer and Rendy decided to develop it further. Since that summer, the program has grown to serve thousands of youth by providing a range of services to teens and families year-round through after-school, summer, and in-school programs in Santa Barbara County. AHA!’s mission is to develop character, social and emotional intelligence, imagination, and social conscience in teenagers.
For the SEL Challenge, AHA! focused on the Girls’ Relationship Wisdom Group, also known as Girls’ Group. Isis Castañeda, Senior Facilitator, described the youth who attend AHA! programs as “eager to feel connection, and hesitant to be vulnerable.”