Introducing non-traditional ways of coping to the world through art, movement, and expression!

Photo of Makayla dawkins
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  • Education

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth


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2033610087 CT: New Haven (06513)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

instagram: Makayla.fenty facebook: Makayla Dawkins

Date You Started Your Project Started


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

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

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

I’m Makayla Dawkins from New Haven, Connecticut. I want to address some of the common issues that people face like lack of social-emotional support, the stigmas around mental health, gun violence and other topics. I would like to lead a health summit for underrepresented groups to attend bringing non-traditional remedies to trauma and mental health through art and expression.

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

Through my projects and community service opportunities, at my high school, I hoped to alleviate some of the stresses that people in my community have. I will take some time out of the day (at least once a month) to acknowledge mental health in our community and in our school. This will take some of the responsibility off of guidance counselors, social workers, and other school staff and will bring students closer together to work hard and to achieve a positive goal since there is a budget deficit and school staff might be limited. In college, I now hope to bring awareness to the adult level showing people new ways of healing and getting through the rough times. By bringing art, movement, and the freedom to express, I am creating an open space and opportunity to thrive while also improving the mind, body, and soul.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

My mom passed away when I was fourteen years old and my dad has been incarcerated for fifteen years; he’s been in prison since I was two years old. These experiences shaped me into the person that I am today and inspired me to transfer my pain into my education and service, in order to better my future and to benefit others. I want to incorporate trauma healing art and community action projects. When I lost my mom, I had the privilege to go to a therapist but not everyone has that luxury. At my high school, we had also had a therapy group for students that lost a loved one. We met once a week for 2 hours and during that short time, we incorporated arts and peer leadership activities, in addition to talk therapy which helped us be emotionally ready to go into the classroom and also gave us a safe space to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, we lost funding and the program was discontinued.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

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

I held a Trap N Paint event allowing students to express their pain with paint onto a canvas. I also hosted a Smoothies N' Yoga session to bring awareness to healthy coping mechanism skills that students may have not been introduced to before. I also handed out smoothies while we debriefed on how the yoga felt, giving students new flavors for their palettes. Scientific studies show that yoga may decrease stress, anxiety, inflammation. It could also improve heart health, quality of life and promote good sleep. In addition, I held several focus groups to speak about mental health and the various kinds of support students have and do not have at my high school. Most students reported having no support because of the attendance policy along with having their concerns dismissed due to the urgency of evidence of their absences. This gave my school data to improve their facility.

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

My group tackled the trauma that stems from being closeted and having a lack of LGBTQ support through art and sharing healthier relationships. In addition, I address the amounts of trauma that gun violence brings to our community through art. I addressed several 'taboo' topics that young people usually don't have the space to do so. We also used art as a main healing tool. Creating art can help you acknowledge and recognize feelings that have been lurking in your subconscious. The process will give you a feeling of self-accomplishment which can be very valuable to improve your self-esteem.

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

I held a Mental Health and Wellness Awareness week in May of 2019. I was able to impact over 300 students and staff afterschool combined which was our initial goal because we knew that transportation and staying after school for some would be a challenge. I also received grant funding for a student after me to lead a change project for my high school since I graduated.

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

I plan to collaborate with YP4 to acquire training, certification, and grant funding for my group. I am also looking into applying for Get Seeded, an on-campus opportunity to excel your innovations.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Research

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

  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community
  • LGBTQ community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Other


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