Idaho Falls student project becomes so much more
In November 2015, sophomores at Idaho Falls’ Compass Academy embarked on a simple class project that opened their hearts and impacted more people than they ever could have imagined. The assignment? Research mental illness and choose what to do with the information they uncovered. The only direction from co-teachers Anna Durfee and Megan Walker was that the project had to involve the community.
As the students delved deeper into the topic, they found that people with mental illnesses face a stigma that prevents an alarming number of them from seeking treatment or even just talking about it. This discovery touched a nerve, and the students decided they could help by creating an awareness campaign to shed light on—and change people’s perceptions of—mental illness. They called the campaign More Than a Stigma.
The students ran More Than a Stigma like a business, with community and educational outreach, advertising, and logistics “departments.” They all pitched in to get an enormous amount of work done, especially once they decided to expand their original awareness goal to include fundraising. Here’s a snapshot of some of their activities:
- Created a website and social media presence as well as posters and other educational materials.
- Hosted an invitation-only dinner for local business and government leaders. The students asked for their support and came away with several donations. These donations funded #MoreThanAStigma wristbands to distribute to the public and tees that the students could wear to promote their message.
- Worked with local businesses like Kiwi Loco Yogurt to promote a More Than a Stigma day; Kiwi Loco donated 10% of its proceeds on this day to the cause.
- Spoke to local elementary school students about how to express their emotions, and distributed posters and educational materials to the junior high and high schools.
The class wrapped up its campaign with a benefit concert and informational night on January 15, 2016. Students and guest speakers presented on mental illness topics and led simulations that helped attendees understand how a mental illness might feel. The students arranged for local bands, food trucks (which donated part of their profits), and raffle items donated by local businesses.
The students raised $2,500 for the Behavioral Crisis Center of Eastern Idaho, which will use the funds to provide training to their staff and the public on how to help someone who has experienced past trauma. These dedicated teens have continued to work on the project in their spare time, and they hope to hand More Than a Stigma over to next year’s sophomores.
BeTheParents.org’s Idaho Youth Spotlights focus on Idaho kids who are pursuing their passions instead of engaging in underage drinking. If you know a child like this, please let us know! We’d love to share their story.
Tags: #findtheirpassion, Idaho, Idaho Youth Spotlight, teen, teen passion