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Award given to incarcerated student for outstanding mental health efforts


Sep 16, 2023

A video post about mental health, created by a group of high school students known as “Voices from Behind the Wall,” has won first place in a national contest. However, these students, who are currently incarcerated and studying at the Travis Hill School in the New Orleans Juvenile Detention Center, have chosen to remain anonymous. The school, which is a public institution, has around 40 students between the ages of 13 and 18. The students who entered the competition were instructed not to discuss their personal situations, but three students facing serious charges were able to give interviews to CBS News without revealing their identities. These students believe that their experiences have given them a unique perspective on mental health. They feel that people label them as “crazy” without truly understanding who they are as individuals. One student emphasized their regret for past actions but emphasized their inherent goodness. Another student admitted to struggling with feelings of inadequacy and seeking solace elsewhere.

The video submission was made to the Aspen Challenge, an organization that seeks solutions to internal problems within cities. Despite not having access to technology like the other competing groups, the students from Travis Hill School found it fairly easy to develop a plan to address mental health issues. They suggested biweekly family counseling sessions as a way for families to better understand each other’s grief and trauma. The students believe that parents will gain useful skills from these sessions, as well as a deeper understanding of topics like trauma, stress, and anxiety. The lack of technology posed a challenge for the students, but they were still able to create a strong solution.

Unfortunately, the students were unable to attend the first-place ceremony, but Travis Hill School principal Byron Goodwin expressed how their work made a significant impact. He informed the students about the reach of their voices, stating that their message was being heard not just within their community but across America. Goodwin believes that this competition provided a valuable opportunity for the incarcerated students, who have often been told that they cannot be taught or achieve anything. The students themselves expressed gratitude for participating in the challenge, as it gave them a voice and showed them that they can still make a positive impact beyond the walls of the detention center. They have gained important lessons and discovered their potential for greatness.

By Editor

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