When you tap on the pink and green icon with Lucero’s friendly face, you know you’re about to set out on an adventure of self-discovery. But the journey to build a gamified wellness app for tweens and teens actually started years ago, and – just like you – Lucero has been evolving ever since. Here’s a little of our history: how it started, how it’s going, and everything in between.
The idea for Lucero was born in 2019 when three friends decided to combine their philanthropy, business and education technology expertise to address the youth mental health crisis. Founders Tom Murphy, Jim Hoover and Jeff Eastman envisioned a holistic, scalable solution that would bring mind-body-spirit well-being to the 1.2 billion adolescents around the world. The Personal Excellence Foundation was created to research the problem, identify potential solutions, and raise funds. Fun fact: the name Lucero was chosen because it means “light-bringer,” and to honor one of our founders’ former teachers!
From the very beginning, Lucero’s goal has been to make sure all the experts are involved, including mental health professionals, parents and other caregivers, and – most importantly – tweens and teens themselves. In early 2020, a pilot group of adolescents, parents, teachers and therapists at KIPP Austin College Prep Middle School and Samaritan Center helped develop our core curricula in the form of Quest Kits. The paper kits contained many of the self-care activities and self-reflection questions you’ll now find in the app.
In 2021, over 200 Quest Kits were distributed to Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Austin to use for a 10-week period. The Boys & Girls Club pilot proved that tweens and teens who used the kit at least once per week showed an average of 20% growth in self-confidence and sense of purpose. We knew we were onto something, because multiple studies show that a sense of purpose is one of the most powerful protectors of mental health. That’s when we knew we needed to get Lucero in the hands of more tweens and teens.
2022 was a big year for Lucero… we went digital! We started by asking tweens and teens, “If you had a magic app that could solve the problems you face, what would it do?” Then we built the safe space they asked for: an app that supports mental health by helping young people build healthy habits, gain tools for emotional resilience and connect with others who radically support them. We’re proud of the fact that all of Lucero’s content is co-created by trauma-informed therapists from Ensemble Therapy and Austin ISD who work hand-in-hand with our Youth Advisory Board. In fact, over 50+ youth, therapists, game designers and developers worked together to bring Lucero to life.
So what’s next? 2023 will bring the launch of individual and family subscriptions and a pro dashboard for schools, community programs, and therapist networks. You can look forward to new features and more worlds to discover, all created with our uniquely youth-driven, gamified approach. We’re continuing our mission to become the go-to resource where tweens, teens and caregivers can find the skills, language and tools to navigate hard topics. We’re growing our community and supporting youth mental health with positive, proactive solutions that are fun, engaging, and take just a few minutes a day. So stay tuned and grow with us! The best is yet to come.