I am glad you are doing this. It is important work.
A very long time ago I did some volunteer work with a day treatment program for people at a mental health center. The thing I remember most strongly is the advice I got from the therapists when I got in. It was to do the exercises, but not to try to do therapy. That made a lot of sense to me. For people with serious mental health problems, or for people in crisis the therapeutic work is best left in the hands of the professionals.
However, simply providing the exercise is an enormous help, and something most therapeutic professionals will not be able to do as well as you can. Cardiovascular exercise is great for reducing stress. Yoga is great for learning how to regulate response to stress.
I agree that youth are likely to respond well to something like zumba. Have you worked with teens before? Keep it fun, make sure your music is up to date, but avoid songs with clear triggers. Listen carefully to the lyrics before using the song. Avoid too much correction unless it is necessary for safety.
If you are going to do yoga you might look into purchasing a set of touch discs….. or at least ask the staff there what they think about using them. They are small circular discs that one places at the corner of one’s mat… turn one side up and the person needs space… no physical adjustment…. turn the other up…. touch is ok.
Good luck with this.
I have two friends who minister in homeless shelters and women’s crisis centers. They do Zumba, which appeals very very well as it’s an inclusive, fun format. (My work with teens and young adults is through Zumba but it’s a little different because I fold special needs students right into my regular class as opposed to going to a separate location. At any rate, they flourish with the music and the dance)
Another thing to consider, if it’s within your scope, might be some kind of yoga.
A place where I used to work has a separate non-profit organization for kid and teen health where they train at-risk youth and youth who can’t afford a gym membership or personal training. They do the standard bootcamp sort of classes, indoors and out.
In my opinion, the most important thing is the consistency of your commitment.
The first piece of business is to make sure that you have permission to include anyone under 18 in an exercise program and that they have no issues that would exclude them from exercise. A parent or guardian can sign a waiver and provide medical clearance.
After the teens are cleared to exercise, I would first ask if there is a type of exercise that they would like to do. I am assuming that you are not going to make the exercise mandatory. So you will have better involvement if you let them have a voice in the sessons. And make it fun. Break all the movements into small parts to start and then put them together as the teens get it.
You may want to try to bring in a voluntary instructor if you don’t have a lot of experience. And if you are an instructor, let the teens know what type of exercise you teach and ask if any of them are interested in participating.
There are a lot options. If you have interest, but not sure where to go from there, come back in and ask for more help.