Women United is Lifting Our Newest Initiative, Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds
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Women United is Lifting Our Newest Initiative, Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds

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Women United Members

June 12, 2024

At the annual Women United Bruncheon, guests embraced our newest initiative and heard first-hand accounts of how mental health challenges can affect families.

On the morning of May 23, final details were happening in the Grand Ballroom at The Pfister Hotel. Programs were tucked neatly into napkins, desserts were placed near the centerpieces of each table, and silverware was straightened to match the standards of not only The Pfister, but of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County’s largest donor network, Women United.

As one of the largest donor networks in the world, Women United brings together strong, passionate women, each sharing their experiences and expertise. In our four-county footprint, Women United has been key in supporting our newest initiative, Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds. The annual Women United Bruncheon embraced the initiative and centered its messaging on elevating teens as they navigate their mental health.

Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds focuses on prevention, equity, and access to mental health services for teens where they spend most of their day: in schools. Its goal is that Empowering Minds Schools will elevate the mental wellness of 21,000 high school students by 2030.

DeVona Wright Cottrell, Deb Mueller, Mia MuellerIn the room of almost 600 attendees, special guests Deb and Mia Mueller spoke candidly about Mia’s mental health journey, with DeVona Wright Cottrell of GMR Marketing and a 2024 United Way Campaign Co-chair moderating. For over ten years, Mia’s mental health went either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed during her childhood and teen years. The resources, or sometimes lack thereof, were difficult to navigate for Mia and her family. 

Teen Mental Wellness looks to change the narrative for high school students, so that they won’t need to go through the trials and tribulations that Mia did. An Empowering Minds School of Distinction will provide a continuum of services to promote student mental health and well-being. Building this Comprehensive School Mental Health System in each participating school is made possible by resources and coordination provided by the Teen Mental Wellness initiative. Two pilot schools, James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) in Milwaukee and Waukesha South High School, have already begun their focuses on becoming Empowering Minds Schools of Distinction.

With the support from the leaders within Women United, we believe that we can help students in our four-county footprint receive increased access to mental health services and reduce stigma – leading to earlier detection, more effective prevention, and reducing feelings of shame and self-consciousness.

During the bruncheon, Women United also celebrated the achievements of Linda E. Benfield, this year’s recipient of the Linda T. Mellowes Leader of the Year Award. The accompanying video brought laughter and heartfelt awe to the room. Guests showed their generosity and support of the Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds initiative by providing inaugural and sustaining gifts that have allowed it to begin strong. The Mueller family shared this support and offered a portion of the proceeds from the day’s sale of Deb’s book, Love Hard, back to the initiative.

When asked how parents and caregivers can help their teens, Mia answered, “Tell them that they’re not bad kids. They just have an illness. And maybe get them into therapy – help them find someone to talk to, even if you don’t understand it. Find them someone who understands more, and you can help them that way.”

Hearing the first-hand account of Deb and Mia’s journey through mentalDeb and Mia Mueller wellness resonated with the attendees in the room. Some may have had similar experiences with their own children, as they wiped tears away. Throughout the discussion, they nodded and took out their phones to scan the QR code on the programs to make their donations to the initiative. 

As the event came to a close, Mia’s last bit of advice was clear.

“The biggest thing is loving your kids. My mom always praised me when I did well. She didn’t focus on the negative things.”


Thank you Women United, Deb and Mia Mueller, the Mueller family, and everyone who attended the bruncheon for lifting this initiative! You can also become an inaugural or sustaining donor by giving to Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds here. Renee Herzing has generously offered to match the first $25,000 donated to this initiative in 2024. Together, we can help students receive the support they need and empower them on their mental wellness journeys. Together, we can Live United.




Interested in supporting Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds?

Click here to donate.


For more updates on Teen Mental Wellness: Empowering Minds and other United Way initiatives, follow us on FacebookXInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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