Social Climate Committee

Creating Change in School Culture

Photo of Adela Villalba
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Date Started

January 1st, 2018

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

I am stepping up to make a change because we’ve taken notice of the rise in teen depression and anxiety. People our age, including people close to us in every community, are struggling with these complex emotions and don’t have the resources they need in order to help themselves. I’ve seen people I’m close to struggle with depression and anxiety. Because they didn’t have the help they needed they had chosen to resort to extreme actions such as self-harm and suicide. Our generation began to make an effort in informing themselves using social media platforms and free online websites that may not always be as accurate. My group and I want to change the culture of our communities to embrace the complexity of this issue and making easy access to resources the norm.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in those ages 10-24 and depression is the leading mental illness in those ages 15-44. A large part of every community struggles with depression and anxiety. There are many stigmas around depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that prevent them from reaching out before resorting to extreme actions. Additionally, people often times do not have access to the help they want to receive.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We concluded that if a community as a whole is not healthy than neither will the individuals within it be. This was an issue that could be handled socially instead of clinically. By implementing a committee in schools that will address the issues of teen mental health we can change the views on depression and anxiety. The committee we created shall begin de-stigmatizing depression and anxiety with a series of 5 workshops that we've already created, tested, reviewed, and plan on conducting within the school beginning next year. These workshops would not only teach resilience tools such as resourcing a memory but teach the importance of personal narrative. The students in the committee would facilitate the workshops themselves in order to gain trust from the participants and create a sense of equal status. These student facilitators would be trained by professionals in order to use trauma-informed language to ensure a safe space.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Every workshop has a structure that helps the participants naturally take appeal towards one another and ease their way into vulnerable, personal, narratives that will later be shared voluntarily in the workshops. We saw people come into our workshops silent and unsure but as they joined the first fun activities, they began to open up. We then transitioned into easier and calming activities such as dedications and observing activities. These help people share their perspective and gain an understanding of each other without it targeting them specifically. For example, an activity in which you choose 2 photos and say why they attracted you. The last activities involve personal narratives that can allow us to see everyone's many different struggles that they successfully overcame. In the end, many people shared and respected one another more as friendly acquaintances than simple faces.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Students may be intimidated when approaching school counselors or feel a sense of authority. The people leading these workshops would be the same students they see in classes, students their own age who give a strong sense of equality instead of authority. The students would not only be in a more understanding position but would be able to hear the students’ honest opinions. Our peers and our committee will pave a path for a new culture through striving towards a community that prioritizes mental health. These workshops would be written and the model will be shared with other high schools.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We hope to have students that participate in the workshops fill out surveys. These students ideally would attend each of the five workshops in order to get the full long-term effect. Each students survey will be documented and we will track the students' levels of stress, anxiousness, joy, and how many times the student referred back to the tools taught in the workshops. We will track the amount of negative and positive emotions that each survey conveys and if we can see a change, if we can see the larger part being positive compared to before than we can truly know we made a difference.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We plan to not only share the workshop series with the rest of the student body but to also create a partnership with schools that use our workshop models. Additionally, throughout the school year, we plan to have multiple speaker days in which we would find professionals that helped us create the workshop model, people who informed us, and people who we felt made an impact on us as individuals.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

This upcoming school year our committee will be officially implemented as a stewardship, meaning that a group of our peers have a day out of each week that they can dedicate to this project. When our group grows we will have a better chance of creating long-lasting partnerships with organizations and schools. Additionally, we plan to get training in counseling from professionals at the Relational Center in order to create the best version of the workshops we can.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Mentors/advisors

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

If we partner with other programs or organizations focusing on education and the school system we could show them our model and how we plan to implement it within our school, spreading the importance of strong school communities. Every person must attend school and if we can change the cultures in school we can have a strong pillar of support for each individual. By teaching and valuing mental health within schools we can help the future faces of the world create an inclusive and welcoming space in which individuals are able to understand challenges they may face with their mental health.

How did you hear about this challenge?

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