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Avery Salin & Gisella Farkas Break Youth Mental Health Stigma with the Help of The Julie Beren Platt Teen Innovation Grants

Avery Salin & Gisella Farkas, 11th graders at West Ranch High School and recipients of The Julie Platt Teen Innovation Grants* started the project Youth Mental Health Awareness (YMHA) to bring attention to the stigma surrounding mental health, especially in the younger generation. YMHA provides wellness kits and resources to youth (ages 11-14) to spark the conversation about mental health at a younger age and integrate wellness habits into their daily lives. Its proactive approach teaches children how to register their emotions and ask for help, in turn mitigating the risk of self-harm or harm to others as emotions intensify with age.  


What was the most impactful part of being a Teen Innovation Grants recipient?    

Having the support and resources of the TIG community. The TIG has an incredible community that fosters the growth and well-being of its members. Attending TIG workshops with so many amazing Jewish teens from all over Los Angeles has been a valuable experience for us. Additionally, this grant has enabled us to turn our idea into reality. With these funds, we have been able to put together wellness kits to teach children about wellness and mental health.   

How will you take what you learned from your experience and implement it in future endeavors?    

We have learned the importance of planning, organization, and communication. It is important to always have a flexible plan in order to be prepared. Having the ability to pivot and change plans is crucial as we move into our uncertain futures. We have also had to stay organized and communicate effectively with different vendors and kit recipients. Starting something from merely an idea can be a daunting task, however, with planning, organization, and communication, we have been able to successfully build our project. We will take what this experience has taught us and apply it to all aspects of life.   

What would you say to any teen who has an idea but doesn’t know about the Julie Beren Platt Teen Innovation Grants?   

Sometimes it is difficult to know what first step to take when you have an idea. If it is something you are passionate and willing to put in the work for, the Julie Beren Platt Teen Innovation Grants is such a great opportunity. It not only provides you with the funds to turn an idea into reality, but you are surrounded with lots of support from the team, mentors, and other teens with similar minds. Throughout the process of creating your project, you are matched with a mentor who provides assistance and guidance in any way you need it. The program gives the opportunity to any teen, with any idea, and is the best way to successfully turn it into reality.   

What were the biggest challenges you faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic and how did being a TIG recipient help you address them?  

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on the younger generation as it has taken away from some of the most formative years of our lives. This pandemic has taken away a sense of normalcy in academics, social life, and more. Mental health of the youth has been greatly affected by these abrupt changes to our daily lives. In this time of isolation, mental health issues can surface or intensify, and we saw this issue as an opportunity to address and bring awareness to wellness. Being a TIG recipient has given us the platform and resources to start this project and provide the guidance in addressing such a widespread issue. With the help of the grant and a mentor we were paired with, we created and gifted wellness kits to the younger generation.  


*The Federation’s Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative (LAJTI) The Julie Platt Teen Innovation Grant (TIG). These awards offer prizes up to $1,500 to empower teens to explore something they are passionate about and turn their ideas into reality. With these awards, we support and encourage teens to take risks, be creative, and experiment. 

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