Our Concern 

The tragic loss of multiple young members of our community in the fall of 2021 has affected our community profoundly. There are also many indicators of a broad level of mental health distress among our youth.

Local primary care and behavioral health providers report significant increases in mental health related office visits (e.g. anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation). School administrators report significant increase in behavioral suspensions related to impaired coping skills. Direct reports from students, parents, and faculty also suggest increased levels of anxiety and depression.

Potential underlying factors include COVID-related social disruption, social media influences, decreased (general) social cohesion/increased divisiveness, and impaired family support. Despite many acts of compassion and support, some youth feel that “nothing’s changed” and “we don’t feel heard or supported.”   

There is emerging consensus that:

Our Framework

In December 2021, concerned community members began working together to form a broad coalition of youth, school, and community leaders. The goal was to facilitate an aligned and effective community-wide response that both allows and encourages spontaneous responses and develops a strategic framework capable of making evidence-based mental health support programs and resources broadly available to our youth. 

This collaborative is guided by principles of the Collective Impact Model for Transformational Change, including a shared vision and agenda, common measurements , mutually-reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone (admin/program) support.

PHASE I, in December 2021 and January 2022, secured a commitment of support from 3 lead organizations, activated a Steering Team, identified strategic imperatives, and established a data framework.

PHASE II, in January-May 2022, Steering Team members practiced collaboration and developed tools and processes that would guide the group. Work began on selected projects connected to each of our selected focus areas.

PHASE III, beginning in June 2022, will assess outcomes and impact, hardwire successful approaches, determine ways to continue and/or expand successful projects, build long-term resources and support, and develop and communicate a sustainable long-term wellness plan.

Our Focus Areas

The TC STRONG Steering Team has identified the following strategic areas of focus:

These strategy areas all work to advance our near-term vision that every youth in Transylvania County feels heard and supported, as well as our long-term vision that every youth in Transylvania County feels confident and secure in connection, purpose, and hope.

Work is already underway on projects that aim to:

Steering team meetings have also included brief trainings for its delegates on the collective impact model, collaborating and working together across organizations, and measuring the impact of programs.

Since December 2021, participants in this initiative have also:

Our Lead Organizations

The TC STRONG Leadership Team consists of representatives from 3 lead organizations that provide committed leadership to the group's work.

Erin Drew, Executive Director

Missy Ellenberger, Director of Student Services

Elaine Russell, Health Director


Rik Emaus, TC STRONG Coordinator

Our Staff

TC STRONG employs one full-time and one part-time staff, with lots of in-kind support from our lead organizations.

Beth Ford, Program Director

Nicole Essenberg, Administrative Coordinator

Our Steering Team

TC STRONG's Steering Team works to advise, support, and coordinate the efforts of cross-functional workgroups. This group includes representatives from mental health clinicians and therapists, county middle and high schools, non-profits and faith-based organizations, public health, local government, parents, and high school students. 

This steering team includes representatives from The Family Place, Transylvania County Schools, Transylvania Public Health, the Transylvania County Youth Support Collaborative, Blue Ridge Health/Meridian, Blue Zones Brevard, Brevard Academy, Hendersonville Pediatrics, Transylvania County DSS, and Young Life, as well as parents and high school students.

Leah Bush, Community Delegate, The Family Place - Rosman

Ashley Dickson, Faculty Delegate, Brevard Middle School

Erin Drew, Lead Organization Representative, The Family Place

Ted Duncan, Principal Delegate, Brevard Academy

Missy Ellenberger, Lead Organization Representative, Transylvania County Schools

Rik Emaus, Lead Organization Representative, TC STRONG 

Denise Gonzalez, Community Delegate, The Family Place

Barbara Grimm, Principal Delegate, Davidson River School

Sarah Hankey, Wellness Delegate, Blue Zones Project Brevard

Adria Hardy, Faculty Delegate, Brevard High School

Jen Heatherly, Communications Team, Transylvania County Schools

Adonai Jacques, Student Delegate, Homeschool

Carrie Koppin, Homeschool Delegate

Phil Latter, School-Based Therapy Delegate, Meridian/Blue Ridge Health

Cora McCall, Student Delegate, Brevard High School

Johnathan Meeks, Student Delegate, Rosman High School

Shanaia Powell, Social Worker Delegate, Rosman Middle/High School

Elaine Russell, Lead Organization Representative, Transylvania Public Health

Tara Rybka, Communications Team, Transylvania Public Health

Stacey Seefeldt, Counselor Delegate, Brevard Academy

Sarah Shawver, Counselor Delegate, Rosman High School

Elijah Simon, Student Delegate, Brevard High School

Scott Strickler, Principal Delegate, Brevard High School

Greg Stroup, Law Enforcement Delegate, Transylvania County Sheriff's Office / School Resource Officers

Becca Swanger, Mental Health Services Delegate, Meridian/Blue Ridge Health

Amanda Vanderoef, Government Delegate, Transylvania County Department of Social Services

Trinity Wilbanks, Student Delegate, Rosman High School

Elizabeth Williams, Clinical Therapist Delegate, Hendersonville Pediatrics

Julie Workman, Parent Delegate, Brevard High School PTSO

Our Network

Our TC STRONG Network currently consists of a little over 150 community members from various sectors. 

This group was originally established as the Transylvania County Youth Support Collaborative in 2019, and focused on immediate impact projects during COVID-19. 

The Network meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 12 noon. Interested community members can email us or complete our interest form to be added to the mailing list for meeting information.

Our Community Partners

The following businesses and organizations are active supporters of TC STRONG and youth mental health in Transylvania County. Thank you!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina   |   Blue Zones Project Brevard - Powered by Pisgah Health Foundation   |   Brevard Academy: A Public Charter School

Brevard Rotary Club   |   CARE Coalition   |   The Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County   |   Connect   |   El Centro Comunitario Hispano Americano

The Haven of Transylvania County   |   Hendersonville Pediatrics, PA | Isaac Homes Youth Shelter and Rosman Youth Support Center   |   Jameson's Joy

Keystone Camp, Inc.   |    Lutheran Church of  the Good Shepherd   |   Mountain Roots   |   NextGen Program   |   Smart Start of Transylvania County

Through the Trees   |   Transylvania Christian Ministry- Sharing House   |   Transylvania Economic Alliance   |   Truventure Enterprises   |   Vaya Health