Empowerment coach creates hub to inspire and increase students’ self-worth

May 13, 2021 — by Kaasha Minocha

Life Launch founder Jill Avery Henderson empowers students in a life skills session.

 

 After watching her own children undergo the pressures and anxieties while attending Saratoga High, Jill Avery Henderson, a life strategist, an empowerment coach and certified hypnotherapist,  knew she wanted to find a way to help.

In August 2019, Henderson launched a program called Life Launch, a center in downtown Saratoga that has bean bag chairs, couches, blankets, a snack and beverage area and desks all to encourage a relaxing environment. Life Launch seeks to help young people ages 13 to 24 find their footing, catch their breath and begin to embrace the journey of developing a relationship with the most important person in their lives: themselves. She said her mission is to empower and support youths as they work through insecurities and anxieties to increase their self-confidence and self-worth. 

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10 through 24 and attempted suicide and self-harming rates are off the charts. There is an epidemic in stress-related disorders (anxiety/panic attacks/depression), and we all need to do our part to create a solution,” Henderson said. 

She has encountered high-performing students from privileged families who engaged in behaviors such as cutting, suicidal thoughts and becoming overmedicated — all while having to maintain a near-perfect GPA to get into the best colleges.  

Henderson said she realizes that teens are often afraid of admitting severe problems like suicidal thoughts and self-harm as society may deem them as “weak.” Because of this mental health crisis, Henderson was inspired to create a space where students can “just breathe” and not focus on achieving or living up to certain expectations. 

After starting Life Launch, Henderson spoke at local Saratoga, Los Gatos and Cupertino libraries to advertise the program to high school students. 

Life Launch offers one-on-one empowerment, hypnotherapy (a method of relaxation) and life skills sessions, which consist of five different courses, each running for six weeks. The one-on-one empowerment sessions range from $125 to $160, and each life skills course costs $720. The weekly 2-hour life skills sessions are split into small groups, ranging from eight to 10 students due to COVID-19 guidelines. The session schedule mimics the calendar of Saratoga High and Los Gatos High, starting in August and ending in late May. 

The courses cover topics like communication as well as people and self-management skills. The sessions often include guest speakers who have faced adversity with tenacity, allowing them to have breakthroughs like senior Nakul Desai, who shared his own struggles and triumphs throughout his life. 

Similar to the school year sessions, Henderson’s summer sessions cover a condensed version of the life skill sessions, emphasizing topics like relationships and manners.

“The skills are timeless. Your child doesn’t need to be crashing and burning to come to Life Launch because sometimes they’re too far gone and need different help,” Henderson said. “This is a place that should be working in tandem, and they should have a place like Life Launch somewhere in their life that focuses on them and essential life skills.” 

Henderson said that she enjoys having Life Launch right near the school because it is convenient for students to come and hang out before the session begins.

She said she has also loved seeing teens’ self-confidence and overall health — emotional, mental and physical —  improve, as well as receiving deep gratitude from their parents. 

“The students are so different, yet they all share the same overlapping issues,’” Henderson said. “That's why I love seeing these kids evolve. It's just amazing.” 

For senior Nina Hawley, joining Life Launch has positively impacted her life. Two years ago, she was struggling with depression and a concussion. She had been going to therapy for many years, but nothing was helping her mentally and emotionally. 

When Hawley’s mom told her about Life Launch after hearing about it through Henderson, Hawley was hesitant because she thought it would be similar to group therapy. However, when she tried it out, she found the sessions felt less clinical, and Hawley was eventually able to become more confident in building a positive relationship with herself and her peers. 

Along with Hawley, LGHS junior Arjun Kapoor said that Life Launch has helped him learn that learning self-care is not indulgent or difficult. 

“I think too many people think of self-care as face masks and bubble baths. I think self-care is hard, and you have to really challenge yourself,” Kapoor said.

For senior Nora Sherman, the most important lessons she has learned through the program are about gaining perspective and confidence. She said she has learned that looking at different viewpoints allows for empathy and the ability to approach situations and problems from a different light. 

“You need to have the confidence to know what you need and what you're worth. You need to value yourself and get that message across,” Sherman said. “And it can apply to every aspect of your life because you have the confidence and are able to work through issues in a safe and comfortable setting.”

Henderson added that she is proud of how Sherman and her other students have grown and changed their mindsets over the last two years.

“I think students meeting each other and sharing stories and perspectives has absolutely given them a whole new landscape of perspective and new tools to use when they feel like ‘crashing and burning,’” Henderson said. “Sharing stories is probably one of the most powerful things we can do as humans because we all have one that is ever-changing and evolving.”  

 

 

 

 

 

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