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Ouida Foundation Boosts Expansion of Zippy's Friends Across the State

Montclair State University will administer the school-based “Zippy’s Friends” curriculum to help thousands of New Jersey children develop healthy coping and social skills

Zippy’s Friends, an internationally acclaimed school-based program developed in the United Kingdom, found initial support in River Edge schools with the help of the Todd Ouida Children's Foundation will now be expanded throughout the state.

The program is designed especially for kindergarten and first grade students to help them develop healthy coping and social skills. And with a $10,000 grant, in part by the Ouida Children's Foundation, allows Montclair State University to serve as the sole licensed provider of Zippy’s Friends in the United States.  

“In the face of the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, our youngest children must find ways to share their thoughts and feelings about such traumatic events," said Dr. Gerard Costa, Director, Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, Montclair State University. "It is imperative that we address the mental and emotional well-being of young children.”

The University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health will administer the program through a matching grant between the Ouida Children’s Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

The Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation, was created by the Ouida family in memory of 25-year-old Todd Ouida who died on September 11, 2001, provides financial support for psychological services and other mental health initiatives for children of families in need. The foundation aims to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of anxiety and depression disorders in children, recognizing the need for early intervention. Family patriach Herb Ouida was named a Seed of Hope by New Jersey Monthly for the Foundation's efforts.

“Special training in the use of the curriculum will be made available to 30 additional kindergarten and first grade teachers from several New Jersey school districts,” said Costa. “Kindergarten and first grade are both vulnerable and formative years for young children. As they are learning reading, writing, math and science, it’s crucial that we teach them how to cope with issues, such as friendship, feeling lonely, bullying, loss, transition to school and facing new experiences, which every five- to seven-year old has to cope with almost daily.”

Zippy’s Friends was first introduced in New Jersey by Youth Consultation Service Inc. which provided training for 75 educators in 12 elementary schools in Paterson, River Edge, Wayne and Paramus reaching more than 4,600 children. 

Montclair State’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health will begin training more teachers on how to implement the Zippy’s Friends program in January 2013. The curriculum covers six core social and emotional themes: feelings, communication, making and breaking relationships, conflict resolution, dealing with change and loss, and coping. 

According to Costa, the data collected from implementing the curriculum in these new districts will provide support for further grant opportunities.  In turn, those districts will serve as models for replicating the curriculum across the state to reach thousands of additional children and to expand the program nationwide. 

For more information, contact Gerard Costa, Ph.D., Director, Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, Montclair State University at 973-655-6685 or caecmh@montclair.edu.

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