Central American virtual teen support platform recognized by MIT in global challenge

TeenSmart’s JovenSalud.net platform selected from more than 1,800 initiatives in 128 countries as a winner of the MIT Solve Global Challenges 2021 

SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA—A Costa Rica & Nicaragua-based platform that connects young people in Latin America to coaching, training and support has received global recognition. 

JovenSalud.net, a platform developed by the nonprofit organization TeenSmart in collaboration with public, private and civil society leadership institutions (the Joven Salud Alianza), has been selected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a Solve Global Challenges Winner. The platform’s innovative virtual approach to supporting adolescents’ studies and growth during the COVID-19 pandemic was chosen from more than 1,800 solutions in 128 countries as one of the seven most promising innovations in the Equitable Classrooms category.

“We are thrilled to introduce the 2021 Equitable Classrooms Solver Class,” wrote MIT Solve Officer Holland Cathey on the project’s website. “Even before the Covid-19 crisis, learning environments—whether physical classrooms or remote and hybrid settings—were in need of significant reimagining to support young learners to develop the skills and competencies they need to thrive in the 21st century. Proven interventions, including early career exploration and self-directed, experiential, and social-emotional learning show promise, but will need to be adapted and scaled to benefit the most underserved and to ensure equality of opportunity for all.

“That’s why this year, Solve launched the Equitable Classrooms Challenge and asked innovators across the globe: How can all young learners have access to quality, safe, and equitable learning environments?” she added, explaining that JovenSalud.net and the other six winners were chosen by expert judges through a lengthy deliberation and review process.

“We’re so thrilled by this global honor for the JovenSalud Alliance and our supporters around the world,” said Eric Liljenstolpe, TeenSmart’s Board President. “It comes at a time when we’re seeing the highest demand in our history for virtual support for young people throughout Latin America. Because of school exclusion and unemployment worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, young people depend on the resources they can access from home. That’s the bridge that JovenSalud.net creates.”

JovenSalud.net offers teens free online coaching, self-assessment health quizzes with empowering feedback, and virtual life-skills courses. This year, its YoMePreparo (IAmReady) micro-learning campaign has sought to focus on students’ mental and physical health while motivating them to stay in school and prepare for a career. Learners can also request crisis support, report violence, and mitigate cyberbullying. JovenSalud.net responds to 500 coaching requests from young people every week, according to Executive Director, Adriana Gómez. 

“Our challenge now is to scale up so that more teens in Central America and beyond can access our services,” said TeenSmart founder Cathy Strachan. “JovenSalud.net has more than 89,000 registered users—but there are 70 million young people in Central America and Mexico alone who could benefit.”

The nonprofit is now working to scale up and offer its award-winning services to more teens in Central America, Mexico and beyond. In order to accomplish this goal, TeenSmart is seeking donations that will help put its tested and cost-effective tool in the hands of more young people, just when they need it most.

“The truth is that with free, safe access to health promotion and life skills information, education, support, and coaching, our youth are making positive healthy lifestyle choices  and staying in school,” Strachan said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to reach youth through these virtual tools that empower young people everywhere every day to manage their own learning and build their own futures. The time is now.”

For more information on JovenSalud.net and the Joven Salud Alliance, contact Adriana Gómez, Executive Director, at administracion@teensmart.net