Maria Rios, a school-based mental health practitioner at Wilder

Mental health support in school continues for students in Saint Paul


An estimated 1 in 5 young people need support for their mental health, and people of color are much less likely to have access to therapy and mental health care. That's why our school-based mental health team meets students right where they are, with culturally relevant therapy, support and resources for them and their families.

When schools closed a year ago to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our students lost their meeting space – but they didn’t lose their mental health support. Like other mental health providers at Wilder, school-based teams switched to therapy by video. “We just had to find a lot of creative ways to do therapy,” says Maria Rios, a bilingual, school-based mental health provider in Sembrando, a Wilder program that supports Latinx students.

During telehealth therapy, Maria asked kids to show her a special toy or item, created scavenger hunts for students in their homes, and used crayons, paper and materials that students had on hand to support their mental wellness. She ensured that students had choices about what would work for them during a time when students lost control over so much in their lives.

One student who previously asked Maria to choose activities during in-person therapy bloomed during telehealth therapy. She joined video calls without help from her parents and chose activities herself. Her parents noticed her become more confident and assertive. “Seeing that growth and that confidence makes me feel really proud of her,” Maria says.


I am hopeful because our kids and our youth are the future. And I know that with them receiving the services that they need, they're going to be a better version of themselves.

Maria Rios, Wilder school-based mental health

What Makes School-Based Mental Health Effective?

Cheng Vang, school-based mental health practitioner at Wilder

"I like to believe that I'm in the business of selling hope,” says Cheng Vang, a therapist with Hlub Zoo, a Wilder school-based mental health program for students of Southeast Asian descent. “Some of my clients and families can see someone that looks like them, speaks like them and understands the cultural nuances without needing to ask. It creates a special kind of trust.”

"I may be a little biased, but I feel like the teachers and the staff and the schools love having us here,” says Talana McGee, a therapist with Kofi, a school-based mental health program for students of African descent. “You know we've been able to expand to different schools and they just love our presence. And we love being here we love working together to support our students.”

TaLana McGee, Wilder school-based mental health practitioner

Families Healing Together: Wilder School-based Mental Health Services

Wilder school-based mental health therapists share how they offer hope and healing to children and families in ways that celebrate and center each family's cultural heritage.