The HIGHTS Bee Well program has the philosophy that bees are a good tool for working with at-risk youths.
HIGHTS, established in 2004, works with vulnerable youths and families in Western North Carolina by providing a continuum of programs and services to meet their needs. The programs are designed to work with youth who are not attending school for a variety of reasons.
Those in the program are at a much higher risk for abusing drugs, for having untreated mental illnesses and for engaging in more risky and violent behaviors.
HIGHTS provides quality interventions and attention to these individuals and also provides support to the family. Bee Well is part of the program known as Inside-Out that supports the youth when they are unable to attend school because of suspension or expulsion.
Bee Well is available in Haywood, Jackson and Macon Counties. The youth can engage in hands-on care of their 20 hives.
The program demonstrates what can be learned from bees. It is impossible to study the behavior of a single bee without the rest of the colony. Each bee performs essential work for the greater good of the colony and cannot survive without the rest of the colony. If the bee was truly independent, it would die.
Watching the hive and the bees at work, it is easy to see that the bees have a sense of community, interdependence within the community, communication, respect for authority, as well as a heightened awareness of safety and security of the community. These community connections and engagement are some of the things taught in the HIGHTS Bee Well program.
“I have seen kids really be transformed working with the bees,” said Bethany Sheffer, youth counselor and bee keeper. “The kids are learning mindfulness and self-regulation through the hands-on care of the hives.”
Sheffer teaches the youth not only about how the hive functions, but also, about safety and concerns for the future as the bee population faces a decline throughout the world.
The Bee Well program also engages volunteers from the bee keeping associations in each county in working with the youth. As part of the apprenticeship program the students will learn entrepreneurial skills such as the harvesting, packaging and marketing of the honey. If interested, the youth may also obtain a state certification in bee-keeping.
Inside-Out and Bee Well are two of the programs offered through HIGHTS. Offering different approaches allows them to provide opportunities and supports to help each student reach their full potential.
Youth in the programs may receive counseling and case management in addition to recreation therapy and vocational training. All of the HIGHTS programs are designed to enable the youth to gain the life skills they will need to become productive adults.
To learn more about the programs and services available through HIGHTS, visit www.hights.org. To learn more about the Evergreen Foundation and funding for non-profit disability agencies, visit www.evergreenfoundationnc.org.