Connected! Young Influencers:
Jazmin Carpenter, Wil Henkel, Kiera Hillaire, and Oliver Trulock
2021 Community Building Award Recipient
Our final recipients of the evening are all young adults, whose efforts across two years inspired and taught a nation, as well as our organization about the importance of youth engagement in peer focused mental well-being efforts.
Each of these individuals has their own journey of pain and triumph that united them as champions for youth mental wellbeing.
Kiera’s passion focused on bullying and cyberbullying. Her work is used with the Lummi Behavioral Health Programs, and she has presented a seminar on the issue.
As high schoolers, Oliver and Wil initiated the peer centered support (PCS) and peer centered outreach (PCO) model, which in 2021 has been adopted across all Bellingham high schools; and activated change in the school community.
Jazmin, knowing the impact of losing a loved one to death by suicide, is one of the longest-standing volunteers with the MAD HOPE youth suicide and mental wellbeing program.
Bringing their stories and strengths, they united in the Connected! Project, a nation-wide effort hosted by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, the nation’s premier mental health and substance use recovery association. The larger aim was to explore and learn how youth engagement can positively make change to address and destigmatize mental health. As “young influencers” they represented diverse efforts happening in Whatcom County and emerged new strategies to promote youth engagement in peer mental well-being.
The team developed the local trusted adult campaign, which included a youth art contest, trusted adult e-card campaign, youth-led trusted adult workshops, social media outreach and a bus ad campaign to promote the role of trusted adults in the lives of youth.
The team strategized about the importance of creative outlets such as art, music, and poetry for youth to metabolize their pressure, stress and big emotions.
The concept of a zine was developed and brought to fruition by other youth recruited to engage in the broader effort. While Covid-19 thwarted big plans—concerts, gaming tournaments, etc., but instead “let’s chalk about it” art efforts and outreach through neighborhood “little libraries” emerged.
As Covid forced an online format shift, the young influencers improved the MAD HOPE youth suicide prevention curriculum. This focused on increasing inclusion of cultures for populations with higher health disparity regarding suicidal thinking and action.
The overall experience was rare, but if expanded and sustained, the model to grow youth engagement, increase youth leadership and save lives is boundless.
To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Oliver, Kiera, Jazmin and Wil are recognized, click here.