Interview by Jan Osborn. Photos Courtesy of Momentous Institute.
Momentous Institute’s innovative programming is focused on changing the odds for all children. Through high-quality mental health services, education, research and training, Momentous Institute provides effective resources focused on building and repairing social emotional health. It’s the only Dallas nonprofit offering mental health services and operating an elementary school for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students.
Dr. Jessica Gomez was recently named Executive Director of Momentous Institute. A bilingual Licensed Psychologist, Dr. Gomez has worked with children and families for over 15 years and is dedicated to building healthy communities where children have access to quality education and mental health services.
Dallas Doing Good recently had the opportunity to visit with Dr. Gomez and learn more about the organization that is supported by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas and the PGA TOUR event it hosts, the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Momentous School prides itself on prioritizing a student’s mental health alongside strong academics. Tell us about your background and how it played into your current position as executive director.
I was born and raised in Chicago and grew up in a very diverse community. My parents worked hard and pushed my brother and I to do the same, while nurturing in us a strong value for education and curiosity. Throughout my time at school, I had so many teachers who encouraged me and mentored me. My initial career goal was to become a medical doctor, but my first psychology class changed all that. I switched majors almost immediately! I am now proud to be a bilingual psychologist, and I’ve been working in this field for over 15 years, specializing in childhood trauma.
As the new executive director, what are your priorities for Momentous Institute?
I have so many! Top of the list is supporting the incredible team of educators, trainers and clinicians that comprise our team. Their passion for mental health and student success inspires me and makes me want to do everything I can to ensure they have what they need to keep bringing their A-game every day. Another priority is simply moving us forward. Salesmanship Club of Dallas powers Momentous Institute and the AT&T Byron Nelson. There’s a lot to keeping all of our different partners and programs aligned and engaged. Communications is a huge priority. Another top priority is, of course, the children and families who come through our door. What are their goals and dreams? That’s our focus. My hope is that their experience with Momentous Institute is nothing short of stellar. Finally, I always want us to focus on innovation and thinking about “what’s next?” I love that I get to play a big part in driving this work forward.
What is Momentous Institute’s involvement with the AT&T Byron Nelson and Salesmanship Club of Dallas?
Momentous Institute is the sole beneficiary of funds raised at the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament. Founded by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas in 1920, Momentous Institute impacts over 4,400 children and families every year through the support of this PGA Tour event. The tournament may last just one week, but the collaboration with Salesmanship Club of Dallas is year-round. Salesmanship Club members are Reading Buddies at Momentous School. They are mentors for our alumni. They comprise the majority of our Board of Directors and all the Board Committees. It’s a vibrant, dynamic partnership!
Explain the new Birdies for Mental Health initiative at the tournament this year.
Birdies for Mental Health is a fundraising initiative designed to generate contributions to Momentous Institute (AT&T Byron Nelson’s beneficiary). The new Birdies for Mental Health fundraiser brings together the excellence of the sport of golf with community action. Leading up to the four-day golf tournament starting May 12, fans can give directly to Momentous Institute through a minimum pledge of five cents/per birdie. There’s an average of 2,000 birdies/tournament, but there could be more or less in 2022. We just will have to see how tournament play goes! If you pledge $.50/birdie and play comes in right at 2,000 birdies, then you would give $1,000. Birdies for Mental Health demonstrates much we are in this together as we work to change the odds for children.
mental health has been very misunderstood throughout the years? What are the building blocks of mental health?
In almost every therapy session with new clients, I will ask about general health and nutrition: are you eating well? sleeping well? exercising? Nutrition, rest and movement are the building blocks of mental health. And, of course, there is so much else to consider: family history, relationships, motivation, etc. A holistic treatment plan we create together then honors these building blocks and ensures we set goals that advance the client’s unique needs and overall well-being.
there has been a stigma around mental health and people are unwilling to talk about it. What will it take to break that stigma?
Yes, there has been a stigma and we have much work to continue doing and thankfully a spotlight has been shed on mental health due to the global pandemic. If there is any silver lining from the past two years, it is that people are becoming more transparent about mental health and recognizing that it is not something that just affects some communities. However, we must also recognize inequities in access and care. The importance and challenge of mental health is being acknowledged, and I think people are more motivated to be part of a solution. They don’t want to perpetuate the stigma, as they see the damage that this has done to those they love, or to themselves. I encourage readers to check in on your family, friends, coworkers and ask them about their thoughts, their struggles. Connect with your people!
If you feel like you have questions or need more resources as you approach these conversations, check out Momentous Institute’s website at www.momentousinstitute.com.