As Youth Mental Health Needs Surge, EmpowerU’s Online Elective Teaches Skills to Overcome Challenges and Thrive

by The EmpowerU Team on August 25, 2021

The pandemic is expected to have long-lasting effects on youth mental health, particularly if it is not addressed. Northern Star Online and Minnesota Virtual Academy are proactively partnering with the youth mental health pioneer EmpowerU to bring a data-driven, resilience-building curriculum to Minnesota students in an effective and meaningful way. Now more than ever, students need support and skills to engage, learn and focus coming off last year’s pandemic school disruption. Students grades 6-12 can enroll in the online, credit-bearing class directly or work with their school guidance counselor.

School guidance counselors, principals and district leaders are invited to learn more about EmpowerU’s partnership with online schools for both middle and high school students!  Attend a free webinar to learn more: 

  • Tuesday, August 31 at 3:30pm CT
  • Thursday, September 9th at 7:30am CT
  • Tuesday, September 4th at 2:00pm CT 

“We know there is a significant need to help students to find motivation and become active participants in their learning and wellbeing.  The problem is too big for most schools to provide the daily skills and support that students need on their own,” said Katie Dorn, MA, LSC, MFT, EmpowerU’s founder and licensed school counselor and therapist. “As schools proactively prepare for a surge in school counseling and mental health issues, EmpowerU is an online partner that can support schools as they need to scale. Our online elective course is a first step for many students learning resilience, while earning needed high school credit.”

EmpowerU equips students with the skills to become more self-directed, confident and focused learners by pairing interactive daily lessons with 1:1 support from online instructors. These instructors, who have master’s degrees and a high degree of training in EmpowerU’s programs, serve as life coaches that personalize the course content based on each student’s goals and barriers. “It’s like NOOM for weight-loss - but for student SEL and mental health.”

Over 93% of students who complete EmpowerU report increased confidence and wellbeing, making meaningful progress towards their goals. 

Youth Mental Health Data

In March 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in the first six months of the pandemic in 2020, the proportion of children ages 12- to 17-years-old visiting the emergency room for mental health-related issues increased by 31%. And according to Mental Health America1, the population most impacted by the Covid-19 mental health crisis were young people from age 11 to 17. These youth showed indications of anxiety and depression more often and more severely than other age groups. Feelings of isolation and loneliness crept up as the leading factor contributing to a person’s mental state. Minnesota ranks 10th among states for youth mental health supports; still 14.04% of youth experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year for 2021, according to Mental Health America2.

How EmpowerU Works 

Families or school personnel may identify students who may benefit from a wellbeing course (a Tier 2 support). 

Once enrolled, students complete daily, online resilience training that is supported with highly personalized coaching from licensed therapists - equipping learners with essential skills, such as problem-solving, goal setting, social interaction and emotional regulation to improve a student's academic learning, study habits and test scores. Students can easily access all coursework by phone, computer or tablet. EmpowerU. The semester-long online course has rolling admissions and can be completed in 30 minutes each school day. EmpowerU’s approach is aligned with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and National Health and Wellness standards, so students who complete all six units of the course can receive a semester credit.

Four evidence-based elements help students move from a place of discouragement, avoidance and disengagement to confidence, resilience, persistence and success. These form the foundation of EmpowerU’s work to help schools prioritize student motivation and mental health during the coming school year.

  • 1:1 personalized support
  • Daily engaging content
  • Comprehensive and robust
  • Accessible and equitable

EmpowerU’s approach helps schools scale their mental health services according to student needs and counseling capacity. School counselors have access to a live dashboard to monitor student progress and seamlessly collaborate with EmpowerU coaches.  They also have access data measurements of student growth pre- to post-participation using the Prochaska/DiClemente Transtheoretical Model of Change.  With insight into each student’s goals and progress, the school’s mental health team can make student appointments more focused and intentional.

As one school principal observed, “EmpowerU is more than just talking about problems. It gives students tools to engage in the process of self-improvement and equips them to overcome obstacles — now and in their future.”

Independent evaluation of EmpowerU showed that:

  • More than 93% of students who complete EmpowerU make a dramatic shift from discouragement and anxiety to improved wellbeing, motivation and hope.
  • More than 88% of students complete the program, compared to completion rates of 5-30% in other programs.
  • More than 98.5% of students would recommend EmpowerU to a friend or classmate.


About Empower U

EmpowerU’s highly personalized, data-driven Tier 1 and Tier 2 solutions equip students to be resilient, self-directed learners and reach their goals — without additional hires or a heavy lift from schools. The program provides each student with interactive lessons and personalized coaching, pairing technology with brain research in a unique way that supports students, empowers their growth and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression. Multi-year data makes it clear: nobody understands Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and approaches student success the way EmpowerU does.

About Minnesota Virtual Academy

Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA), a program of Houston Public School District in Minnesota, is a full-time online public school for students in grades K–12. MNVA is the largest online K–12 school in the state and is proud to carry out our mission of helping to “discover, develop, and achieve the potential within all learners.” Language arts, math, science, history, art, health/PE and music are the core courses. MNVA also offers other courses in the appropriate grade levels, such as world languages. High school students also have access to AP® courses, as well as numerous elective courses.

About Northern Star Online

Northern Star Online (NSO) is an online learning provider recognized and approved by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) for full-time or supplemental high school courses. Its mission is to educate secondary students to be lifelong learners by providing high quality online courses and learning experiences that permit the learner to renew, accelerate, and/or personalize their learning at any time and in any place. NSO is part of a consortium of 15 independent school districts and four educational service agencies representing more than 50 school districts. 

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