Every year at the Active Minds National Conference, we take time to recognize the dedication, passion, leadership, and achievements of individuals, schools, and chapters over the past year. This year has been exceptionally challenging, but chapters and leaders rose to the occasion and innovated through creative ways to leave a lasting impact on their communities. Below are just some of the remarkable highlights of their achievements.
Active Minds Chapter of the Year Award: Emory University
While Active Minds at Emory has been an established chapter for many years, the last two have shown incredible growth and leadership. Active Minds at Emory has been working to deeply engrain mental health awareness, advocacy, and education into the fabric of their school. They successfully campaigned to add required mental health education into existing wellness programming during new student orientation. They partner with dozens of student, university, and community organizations to bring unique perspectives to their work and to bring mental health education to communities where it may not exist. They have fundraised to bring Mental Health First Aid trainings to their campus and to support the Active Minds national movement. Plus, they have hosted dozens of large-scale programs, facilitated V-A-R trainings, and recently reorganized and expanded their leadership team to build committees due to so much interest in leading this life-changing work.
The Adam Carlson Student Leader of the Year Award:
Geela Margo Ramos, The University of Central Florida
Under Geela’s leadership, Active Minds at UCF reactivated last fall, and despite the challenges of a remote learning environment, has thrived. Their presence has exponentially increased on campus with more than 100 members, countless programs, and Geela represents her chapter and mental health equity issues on the newly formed UCF President’s Student Advisory Council. Geela’s work has expanded beyond her peers and into the greater Orlando community and nationally as a local advocate supporting organizations working to end homelessness and integrating mental health education into local high schools and nationally as an Active Minds Student Ambassador.
Active Minds Advisor of the Year Award:
Diego Estrada, The John Cooper School
Dr. Diego Estrada is the Active Minds Chapter Advisor at The John Cooper School in the Woodlands, Texas, where he works as an upper school counselor. He has developed mindfulness, wellbeing, and emotional intelligence programs and classes to support the mental health of his school community. Students say that Dr. Estrada is an invaluable supportive person who goes above and beyond to support their development, mental health, and leadership.
The Peg’s Foundation Transformational Change Award:
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Peg’s Foundation Transformational Change Award recognizes a chapter each year achieving lasting change through advocating for campus-wide policies, structures, systems, or practices that improve, protect, and prioritize student mental health. Active Minds at UAB is an extremely active organization on campus, working alongside university administration, Student Counseling Services, and multiple undergraduate organizations to lead advocacy efforts and raise awareness of mental health. They’ve made incredible steps towards changing campus policy and culture through initiatives on their Suicide Prevention Leadership and Implementation Team, the Student-Faculty Advisory Board, and a task force to build a mental health app. The chapter representatives on these teams have supported several initiatives, including adding railings to multi-level parking decks, creating the UAB Cares website as a suicide prevention resource hub, promoting Kognito mental health training for students and faculty, among others, and providing recommendations for faculty to support mental health through their courses.
The KyleCares Award for Excellence in High Schools:
The Howard County Public School System
The KyleCares Award for Excellence in High Schools, generously supported by our friends at the Kylecares Foundation, allows us to highlight the innovative work chapters, students, staff, and systems are undertaking to support the needs of their students and lay a groundwork for a life of mental health.
With Active Minds chapters at seven out of the twelve high schools in the district, The Howard County Public School System is dedicated to nurturing student leadership on each campus and on a district-wide level to create connections, advocacy, and positive communities. HCPSS chapters passionately focus on increasing students’ help-seeking behaviors, decreasing the stigma associated with mental health, and sharing community resources in concert with their Superintendent’s Strategic Call to Action to nurture mental health and social-emotional learning. This collaborative relationship has only been strengthened by remote learning, which allowed the students and advisors across the eight high schools to collaborate on events, programming, and initiatives in new ways that have dramatically increased their reach.
The Sue Cimbricz Spirit Award: Da’Trevion (Tré) Moss
Sue Cimbricz was a dedicated and passionate advocate for young adult mental health. Soon after losing her son, Sam Freeling, to suicide, Sue found Active Minds and immediately got to work channeling her energy into changing the conversation about mental health. The Sue Cimbricz Spirit Award is awarded to an outstanding member of the Active Minds’ Student Advisory Committee, who likewise exemplifies Sue’s all-in commitment to changing the culture around mental health.
Tré founded his chapter last spring, just before the pandemic shifted students off campuses and to online learning, and despite the challenges of building an Active Minds chapter remotely, Tré has been able to lead his chapter in several events this fall and successfully used the Active Minds Transform Your Campus program to advocate with his school to print crisis numbers on the back of Student ID cards and to list mental health resources in all course syllabi. In addition to his work locally, Tré has been an invaluable contributor to the Active Minds National movement as part of our Student Advisory Committee. He has participated in several focus groups with Active Minds and our partners, shared his work on high-profile webinars, and has spoken to national media outlets countless times, including several upcoming documentaries.
The Luke Beischel Chapter Jumpstart Scholarship:
The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
The Luke Beischel Chapter Jumpstart Scholarship is generously supported by Xavier University chapter alumnus, Luke Beischel. Analogous to support that Luke received when he was a student, he mentors, and funds one new chapter’s trip to the Active Minds conference. This year, the Luke Beischel Chapter Jumpstart Scholarship is awarded to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
A small team of students and a dedicated staff advisor rebuilt the Active Minds chapter at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, this fall and has already hit the ground running. They have worked closely with their school and Active Minds to rebuild their governing structure, their leadership team, and their plans for the spring term. They plan to engage their peers through a combination of social media, remote programming, and “grab and go” meetings where chapter members will be able to pick up materials for a craft or activity to do while meeting from their own rooms. They are grateful for Luke’s support to help them connect with the national Active Minds movement through Conference.
Active Minds Student Philanthropist Award:
Olivia Boyce, Bucknell University
The Active Minds Student Philanthropist Award recognizes a student who has led exceptional fundraising efforts for the Active Minds National movement.
During the first-ever Active Minds’ Spirit Week, Active Minds at Bucknell raised over $2,100 for the Active Minds National movement to support the development of programs, mental health resources, and support for the chapter network. While several members of the Bucknell team raised over $100, Olivia raised over $1,100 through dedicated outreach and sharing her passion! Spirit Week was only one of many programs and initiatives Bucknell implemented this year and, through their fundraising efforts, their reach on campus and beyond has grown significantly.
Active Minds Health Equity Award: The University of Portland
The Active Minds Health Equity Award highlights a chapter that has centered its work around health equity, anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion. Now, more than ever, Active Minds chapters are serving as vital voices in campus conversations elevating and supporting Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), queer, and other marginalized communities.
Active Minds at the University of Portland was supporting BIPOC student organizing and called for increased mental health resources before the fall term even started by participating in and promoting Juneteenth programming over the summer. This started a term of deliberate programming efforts to make sure that their mental health advocacy was intersectional, intentional, and grounded in strengthening their community in support of calls for justice. A few of the nearly 20 programs hosted by the chapter this fall included working with the Jewish Student Union to celebrate the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her contributions to health and equality, hosting speakers on coping skills and self-care in times of political unrest and injustice, and holding discussions on the intersections between gender identity, religion, disability, and mental health.
Active Minds Pandemic Perseverance Award: Santa Clara University
Active Minds chapters have always innovated as they faced challenges in their work. Though it hasn’t been without struggle this year, chapters have continued to showcase their creativity, passion, and ability to preserve.
Active Minds at Santa Clara University reported over 15 programs this fall ranging, from trivia games to collaborative events with other student organizations and engaging social media strategies to reach their peers. Instead of having regular meetings this term, Active Minds at Santa Clara University showcased chapter leaders and members engaging in self-care activities via Instagram stories each week so students could access and refer back to them. These activities included tie-dying, baking mindfully, art, aromatherapy, and creating “pick me up” jars with positive affirmations.