student advisory committee, 2021-2022

Keeping it relevant and real

Each spring, we welcome new members to the Student Advisory Committee, comprised of up to 30 students from across the country who show extraordinary leadership and dedication to Active Minds. The committee is an advisory body to the national office that brings the student perspective to organizational decision making.

Meet the SAC Members!

Nathan Blanken

Pronouns: he/him/his

School: University of Maryland

About: Nathan is a computer science major on the cybersecurity track. Nathan has known about Active Minds since 2014, so when he came to college, he knew that he wanted to join the chapter and be a part of a great organization. The UMD chapter was frozen when he tried to join, so he worked with a great group of people to get it running again. After getting it up and running, he ended up in the President role and is so excited for all of the awesome things the chapter is going to do. Outside of school, he loves to skateboard around campus, play lacrosse, and hammock.

Gregory Carnesi

Pronouns: he/him/his

School: Arizona State University

About: Gregory is a senior at Arizona State University studying psychology, philosophy, and sociology. His passion for mental health stems from his own struggles with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, among others. He joined Active Minds at the end of his freshman year after being told about it by fellow mental health advocates in the community, and, since then, has served as Vice President before serving as President. Through his involvement in Active Minds, he has worked to bridge the gaps between student organizations and university leadership, as well as come to understand the power of his own story in fighting stigma. Outside of school, he enjoys working out, reading, listening to music, and hanging out with friends whenever he can.

Stephen Chen

Pronouns: he/him/his

School: Savannah College of Art and Design

About: Stephen is majoring in motion media and minoring in both film and animation at Savannah College of Art and Design. Stephen witnessed various mental health challenges students faced as a Resident Assistant and was able to provide help and support through the position. With a better understanding of the needs and challenges of students, he and some of his fellow student leaders started an Active Minds chapter on campus, where he currently serves as the president. Inspired by cultural critics like bell hooks, he creates artworks that challenge the status quo. He wants to continue using his platform to advocate for mental health and social justice. Stephen aspires to earn a PhD in Media Studies and research the media’s effects on mental health in conjunction with the diverse intersectionality of identities audiences have. Outside of school, he spends his time with political activism and journalism – stringing for the Associated Press. Most days you can also find him in the local rink playing ice hockey.

Yuritza Escalante

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of California, Riverside

About: Yuritza is a Senior at the University of California, Riverside pursuing a B.S. in psychology with a minor in neuroscience. She joined Active Minds to become more involved in advocating for mental health on campus. She has witnessed the impact that mental illnesses have had on her peers and wants to ensure that the appropriate resources are available to those in need. Yuritza is excited to serve as the Student Director of Outreach and Internal Relations and be a member of SAC. Her goal is to increase inclusivity and continue fighting to normalize the conversation surrounding mental health. Yuritza is also a Peer Mentor for the Chicano Student Programs and a member of the Psi Chi Honors Society. For self-care, she enjoys going to the park, journaling, and working out.

Tara Gadoury

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: Smith College

About: Tara is a non-traditional student majoring in classics at Smith College with an expected graduation date of May 2023. She is President of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars’ (NSCS) National Leadership Council. She first learned of Active Minds at her community college before transferring to Smith. Tara has struggled with Anxiety, Depression and PTSD for most of her life, and has strived to be a voice for those who are brave enough to speak out about changing the conversation about mental health. She became a Scuba Instructor because she found that diving relived a lot of her anxiety, and enjoys diving whenever she can.

Benjamin Heim

Pronouns: he/him/his

School: Lenox Memorial High School

About: Ben is a contemplative and curious junior at Lenox Memorial High School. After discovering the high prevalence rates of mental illness among teens, he founded the Active Minds chapter at his school. He is a strong advocate for increasing mental health awareness through community-based programs and plans to pursue public health in college. Outside of mental health advocacy and school, you can find him reading, writing, or playing video games with his friends.

Jordan Kozuki

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: California State University Fresno

About: Jordan is a junior at California State University Fresno where she a psychology major. After graduation, she will be pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in child psychology. Active Minds has been apart of her college journey since her freshman year, and Jordan is excited to share her experiences with others. When she’s not in school, Jordan enjoys working as a horseback riding instructor, gardening, and playing with her three dogs.

Kelly Maguire

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: Florida Gulf Coast University

About: Kelly is currently a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University majoring in psychology, and minoring in interdisciplinary studies. She is involved with Active Minds because when she experienced a mental health crisis two years ago, The Active Minds 2019 National Conference inspired her to seek help by taking a leave of absence from school and going to treatment. Today, advocacy has allowed her to turn her pain into power, and make an impact on someone else who is struggling. In the little free time she, she loves walking her dog, meditating/yoga, journaling, and being anywhere in nature!

Kaylee Menefee

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of Portland

About: Kaylee is a senior at the University of Portland majoring in marketing with minors in Spanish and psychology. She dove into the world of mental health and advocacy in 2019, shortly after one of her best friends passed away from suicide. This was a big turning point where she realized how relevant mental health awareness is and how strong the stigma is as well. She is the president of her Active Minds chapter and love it because it helps her see how everything is related to mental health and helps her make connections with so many people. Outside of school, she loves to do anything creative: crochet, paint, draw, illustrate, embroider, and sew!

Vani Mittal

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of Alabama at Birmingham

About: Vani is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) majoring in public health and biology and minoring in chemistry. She has been involved with Active Minds at UAB throughout her undergrad, serving as President last year. She is particularly passionate about the interconnectedness of social justice and mental health and serves as co-lead of the UAB Social Justice Advocacy Council. At UAB, she also represents Active Minds on the Suicide Prevention Leadership and Implementation Team as well as the Student Counseling Services’ Student Advisory Board. She provided student input for UAB’s mental health app B Well UAB and also served as a Mental Health Ambassador in the UAB Honors College, working on social media campaigns focusing on minority mental health. Vani plans to work in medicine using a public health approach that integrates mental health as a key component of overall wellbeing. She practices self-care by reading, listening to music, and practicing yoga.

Amna Mohammed

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: St. Francis Xavier Secondary School

About: Amna is a freshman at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School who loves learning about the brain and how it affects mental health. After finding out that many people, including her close friends, struggle with their mental health, she decided she wanted to help and founded a chapter of Active Minds at her high school. Amna wants to go into pre-med and become a psychiatrist to help not just her friends, but all the people that need help. She loves going outside, being around her friends, playing sports, horror movies, and chocolate.

Kelsey Pacetti

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

About: Kelsey is studying social work, special education, and theatre arts at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Kelsey has been a part of Active Minds since her first year of college and she is now in her third year serving as President of her chapter. During the 2020 Active Minds National Conference, Kelsey was awarded the Active Minds Adam Carlson Student Leader of the Year. She has taken her traumas and turned them into a success story. After struggling with her depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, she found hope and passion within Active Minds. Kelsey has brought The Yellow Tulip Project, Unmasked Project App, The Mental Health Monologues, The Bandana Project, AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk, and more to the Whitewater community. Kelsey enjoys speaking on panels to bring mental health into the light. Other than Active Minds, she has most recently spoken on a panel for Prevent Suicide Wisconsin and NAMI Dane County. In her free time she enjoys being with her girlfriend, snuggling her cats, and watching The Office. Kelsey is very excited to be serving on the SAC for another year and for SSP to return to campus.

Maitri Pathak

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: Henrico High School

About: Maitri is a senior at Henrico High School and the founder and President of Active Minds at Henrico High School. She became involved with this organization and started a chapter in her junior year at her school because of her mental health struggles and the mental health struggle of students around her. With Active Minds, she has been able to raise awareness about mental health issues at school and create a welcoming and fun space for all students and teachers. Outside of school, she loves reading new books, working out, and volunteering and helping the community.

Sarah Pennington

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: Savannah College of Art and Design

About: Sarah is a senior at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She is pursuing a BFA in film & TV with a minor in business management and entrepreneurship with the hopes of becoming a film director/editor. In addition to her academic endeavors, Sarah is a passionate advocate for mental health and invisible disabilities, especially lesser-known conditions such as body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). Sarah’s advocacy work led her to join her local Active Minds chapter in 2017, and she has since been involved both as a chapter president and as an Active Minds Student Ambassador (AMSA) before joining the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cuddling her service dog, Daisy, watching her favorite movie, Frozen, or reading the Harry Potter series.

Geela Ramos

Pronouns: they/them/theirs

School: University of Central Florida

About: Geela is a computer science major, with a minor in cognitive science, at the University of Central Florida. Joining Active Minds during their first year, they rose to the role of Chapter President and AMSA member as a sophomore. With support from their E-Board, their chapter has been able to host successful fundraisers for different community partners; additionally, they have worked in tandem with a variety of student organizations and agencies to advance advocacy efforts in different sectors connecting to mental health. Over the past two years, Geela has enjoyed brainstorming new initiatives and hopes to continue organizing long-lasting programs as Chapter President for a second year. In their spare time, they love exploring Orlando and other cities you may find them in to seek out interesting eateries and novelty stores.

Natasha Reddy

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of San Francisco

About: Natasha is a junior at the University of San Francisco studying psychology and is passionate about mental health advocacy. Natasha launched Active Minds at USF last year and has served as President since to create a safe space for those struggling with their mental health and to advocate for better access to mental health resources on campus. She has enjoyed helping execute The Wellness Project and Mental Health Monologues at her chapter and is excited to continue positively impacting students as a member of the SAC. Natasha is also Director of Advocacy for United Students for Veterans Health, where she raises awareness about mental health challenges that veterans face. In her free time, Natasha enjoys listening to music, playing tennis, and spending time with friends and family.

Aileen Sanchez

Pronouns: ella/she/her

School: Imperial Valley College

About: Aileen is a political science and history major minoring in philosophy with the goal of attending law school to serve her community as a future politician. She is passionate over political advocacy and student empowerment of underserved communities. During her educational journey, she has been involved as Vice President of her Students Government, ambassador programs from ACLU, Vice President of Students for Political Awareness & Action Club, Student Wellness Ambassador for the California Community Colleges, conducting political forums, and volunteering with the Social Justice Committee from her county. After passing through mental illnesses during her first year of college, she recognized the signs in other students and the scarce information there was for help along with the little training her school faculty had. Since Fall 2020, she took the lead by becoming chapter president of her college to change the conversation about mental health in her community. This has opened the opportunity to lobby for the bill funding of mental health services in all California college systems. Aileen is happy to be a representative voice of marginalized minorities who understands the needs for mental health.

Kamakashi Sharma

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of Pittsburgh

About: Kamakashi is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in neuroscience, psychology, and French with a pre-medical track. After undergrad, she plans to complete her MD/PhD with a medical specialization in psychiatry and a research focus in neurodiversity. Kamakashi initially joined the University of Pittsburgh Active Minds chapter her freshman year when searching for a space to be able to actively engage in discussions about mental health. Through her experience in the chapter, she has been involved in many facets of mental health advocacy, from larger-scale discussions to peer-education to student-led efforts of raising awareness and increasing access to resources on her campus. As the current President of her chapter and a member of the SAC, Kamakashi hopes to be able to continue contributing to this growth of the conversation about mental health. Other than her involvement with her degree and with Active Minds, Kamakashi enjoys spending time at coffee shops, drinking coffee, working out, and writing.

Sophia Shieh

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: Boston College

About: Sophia is a senior studying applied psychology & human development, and the combined M.A. in mental health counseling program at Boston College. She double minors in medical humanities, health, & culture, and leadership in higher education and community settings. She is honored and humbled to serve on the SAC and as the Co-President of her Active Minds chapter for the second year. She also serves in various leadership roles for the BC chapter of To Write Love On Her Arms, Lean On Me peer text line, and undergraduate government Council for Students with Disabilities. She’s interested in intersectional issues related to mental health and is passionate about accessibility, cultural humility, and trauma-informed care in higher education institutions and medical settings. Outside of the classroom, you can find her gratefully serving in research and clinical assistant capacities or volunteering for community mental health clinics, prison education programs, Crisis Text Line, McLean Hospital, and other settings. She believes in the notion that “the wounded healer can truly heal” and sees her personal experience as a gift that inspires her passion for the helping profession. Some fun facts about her are that she loves her hedgehog and has lived in 10+ cities across several countries.

Jaiden Singh

Pronouns: he/him/his

School: University of Arizona

About: Jaiden is a University of Arizona sophomore from Mountain Ridge High School in Arizona. He is majoring in public health, and is looking for ways to include political science in his studies. He helped found a chapter at his high school, and is in leadership at Active Minds at the UA. In his free time, he loves discussing politics, volunteering on campaigns, cooking and baking, and hanging out with friends. He is grateful to get to be on the SAC and for the Active Minds community!

Emma Smith

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: Drexel University

About: Emma is a junior at Drexel University majoring in music industry and minoring in psychology and business administration. In high school, Emma’s diagnosis of anxiety and depression and her experiences in therapy inspired her to begin her advocacy through music, conversations with her peers, and school presentations. She eagerly joined Active Minds her freshman year as Secretary, held the President position her sophomore year, and is currently serving as Vice President her junior year. Through her work with Active Minds, Emma has increased membership participation through developing a member committee and increasing the organization’s presence on campus with meaningful events and partnerships. Outside of her life as a student and mental health advocate, Emma likes to go hiking, write songs, and spend time with friends and family.

Roberto “Beto” Valenzuela

Pronouns: he/him/his

School: The John Cooper High School

About: Beto is entering his senior year at The John Cooper High School where he serves as the co-president of the Active Minds chapter at his school. Beto is passionate about encouraging more open discussions surrounding mental health and promoting mindfulness for young adults. Inspired by his experiences in Active Minds, Beto founded Spark Apparel, a non-profit clothing brand dedicated to inspiring positive mental health conversations. In the future, Beto hopes to combine his passions for entrepreneurship and mental health awareness to innovate new ways of fighting mental health stigma. Beto spends his spare time getting coffee with friends, watching Formula 1, and scrolling on TikTok.

Meera Varma

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of California, Los Angeles

About: Meera is a psychology major at UCLA. She has been involved with Active Minds since her freshman year at UCLA. This organization has helped her find her passion for mental health activism, and has allowed her to also be an activist for The Shawn Mendes Foundation. In her free time, she teaches herself songs on the piano and ukulele.

Audrey Vint

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of Northern Iowa

About: Audrey is a junior at the University of Northern Iowa as an elementary education major. She got involved in volunteering in mental health-related clubs in high school and this is her third year being a member of Active Minds. The Green Bandana Project and Chalk-It-Out events are some of her favorite mental health projects to work on. Additionally, she works to make sure that students know what mental health resources there are on campus and in the community. Outside of school, Audrey works at a local family-owned bakery and loves to read and snuggle with her cat, Carly.

Bakhtawar Yasir

Pronouns: she/her/hers

School: University of North Texas

About: Bakhtawar is a senior at the University of North Texas majoring in political science and criminal justice and minoring in philosophy. She is involved in Active Minds because she wants to help others with mental health in any way that she can. Bakhtawar has been a part of Active Minds for 2.5 years. Her first semester in her chapter’s Active Minds she served as the Outreach Coordinator, following that she served as the Secretary for 2 years, and finally in this upcoming semester she will be serving as President for the upcoming school year.