Topics & Perspectives

The House Students are Building to Make a Change

Three strategies for inspiring children and youth to succeed

There is a place where children and youth find the care they need for overcoming barriers and exploring opportunities. 

This place is Change Inc. 

A trailblazer in community-based education and social services for 55 years, Change Inc. is one of the oldest and most trusted providers in the Twin Cities. 

“We have always been on the forefront of improving access to mental health care for children, youth, young adults, and families,” says Executive Director Jody Nelson. That includes low-income and marginalized Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. 

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Student in class

Change Inc. is home to three key strategies that provide a wide range of programs and services for children and youth who seek and receive mental health support: 

GAP School — Because all students deserve to have an equal chance at academic success, but not every student learns in the same way, Change Inc. opened GAP School in 1967. Since then, the GAP team has built a culture and system of care to help young people succeed. Incorporating individualized instruction, vocational training, workforce readiness, college and career readiness, free meals, transportation, connections to community services, and on-site mental health counseling, students do succeed. Youths ages 15-24 may also engage in the nationally acclaimed YouthBuild program. Students receive their high school diploma while earning an industry-recognized credential in construction or health care. 

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Fun helps in mental health for the kids and their families

Community & School Collaborative — Change Inc. provides school-based mental health, in-school mentoring, case management, and clinical services to address the increase in student needs in a post-COVID world. Research has shown that the best solutions to meet the needs of children and youth are those that involve community partnerships. Change Inc.’s investment in relationships with school districts, educational leaders, teachers, the health care system, culturally based mental health therapists and clinicians, parents, youth, and the community ensures a holistic approach to meeting mental health needs. 

“Success in school relies on many factors,” Nelson said, “most of which happens outside the classrooms. So, Change Inc. is increasing access to mental health services, including intensive counseling and social services.”

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A teacher trained to make a difference with a student

Change Institute — Understanding that children’s mental health is critical, Nelson and her team have invested in Change Institute for over 40 years to enhance mental health training for teachers, therapists, and other service professionals. Additionally, they partner with community-wide initiatives as advisors or developers, which is core to their foundation for building relationships and community. 

Change Inc. will continue increasing services to children, youth, and families in need. To learn how you can support the well-being of today’s children and youth, visit 


Cynthia Arnold

Cynthia Arnold, CEO of One Earth United, promotes Indigenous art as a powerful way to inspire connections among cultures. As a PR pro, she has worked in media relations garnering placements in major publications such as The New York Times and USA Today. She attended Penn State and graduated with honors from Ohio University with a BSJ and PR specialization. For more information visit

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