ESSAY PROMPT: Please compose a 500-800 word essay that addresses each of the following questions: Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability in your school or community? How do you hope to demonstrate leadership in the future?

Senior 11

Mental health remains stigmatized in many communities of color. Asking for help is considered shameful and weak, forcing those that need help to suffer in silence. I feel strongly about this issue because I have firsthand experienced and witnessed the negative stigma. When I was struggling with my mental health without receiving care, dismissive statements like “When I was a kid, I had it worse and I turned out fine; be thankful” only made the situation worse.

In my diverse high school, I have heard countless stories about students who are unable to receive proper mental health services due to cultural taboos, judgment, or affordability. I remember having a conversation with an acquaintance where she told me how stressed she is with her workload and home life and how she just needed a place to cry. Keeping this in mind, four friends and I decided to enter the 20/20 Olympics and establish a mental health space in our school to reverse the stigma. I took the lead in completing research and creating our pitch presentation, despite a heavy course load. After four months of creating blueprints, speaking to school officials, and gaining support and feedback from students, we won the competition with a $500 grant to kickstart our idea.

My school is a rigorous college preparatory academy, and students often feel stressed and anxious without knowing where to turn. The space we have created is meant to be a sanctuary for students to de-escalate, featuring comfortable seating, relaxing activities, and access to a social worker. Currently, we are implementing the design of the space and consulting with our counseling staff to provide accessible and affordable therapeutic resources. However, the installation process has not been without roadblocks. For instance, due to limited space in our school, we must place our space in the lounge area of the library, which is not an ideal location compared to an unused room. As a result, my team has had to reimagine our approach to coexist with the existing lounge while still being a safe space for students.

In addition to my work on the mental health space, I enjoy mentoring others. I am grateful for all those who have provided me with passing words of wisdom and hope to do the same for others. Outside of school, I serve as a mentor every other Saturday at KU’s Saturday Science, Math, and Technology Academy. I help teach our curriculum to middle and high school students, answer any questions they may have, and provide guidance and advice. This is an experience I look forward to each session, where I am reminded of how I was once in their shoes. I understand the importance of representation and strive to be a role model for students in my diverse community. By sharing my own journey and providing guidance and support, I hope to break down barriers and increase representation in these fields.

Throughout my life, I plan to advocate for people in my community to receive the mental health services they need and deserve through a combination of reassurance, active listening, allocation of resources, and most importantly; change. As an aspiring physician, I feel it is my responsibility to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues, bridge gaps, provide resources, and inspire young people, starting in disadvantaged communities.