What You Can Gain from Our Newly Structured Student Advisory Committee

Nathan Blanken
Nathan Blanken

For years, the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee (SAC) has been a staple of the work students nationwide are doing in collaboration with Active Minds national staff around mental health. I’m beginning my second year on the SAC, and am honored to serve this year as its president as we continue to think of new ways that youth and young adults can be leaders in mental health awareness, education, and advocacy. 

The SAC consists of a group of high school, college, and university student leaders from chapters in the Active Minds National Chapter Network across the United States and Canada to provide a young adult perspective on the work being led by the Active Minds national staff, the Board of Directions, and the National Advisory Committee. SAC members primarily advise national staff in student engagement, program planning, chapter engagement and management, National Conference planning, and program promotion, and represent the Active Minds’ student voice nationally through media and other student forums. 

Despite being entirely virtual, my experience on the SAC last year was phenomenal and so beneficial to my chapter at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). I met numerous students from all over the country who were also interested in mental health awareness and advocacy. Getting to hear about the exciting events that chapters are organizing across the country was so helpful because it gave me ideas I had never even thought of. My chapter was also exposed to more opportunities than we could have imagined, including piloting new Active Minds programs like the Behind the Backpacks engagement toolkit. In addition to the benefits for my chapter, my participation on the SAC helped me to land a summer internship at Flourish Labs (producing the håp app, which Active Minds is helping to pilot), to share my mental health story with news outlets across the country, and to learn more about ways I can personally better support my friends and family. 

The SAC has always been a valuable leadership team in guiding the important work being done by Active Minds in changing the conversation about mental health. Now, to increase our impact, the SAC is debuting a new structure to best support our consistently growing network of chapters and schools nationwide

Closer Support for Our National Chapter Network

This year, the SAC has been restructured to better link opportunities like those my chapter and I had to more chapters and students at a national level. In previous years (both virtually and in-person), the SAC consisted of one president and roughly 25 general members with primary expectations to advise our national staff. 

Starting this year, the SAC will consist of four members on the leadership team (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer) and eight regional representatives. Each regional representative will cover an area within the United States (with the northeast representative covering Canada) and will work with chapters in their region to mobilize students, organize regional events, and support chapters as needed – all with the end goal of helping students feel more connected with chapters in their community. Chapters will be able to coordinate directly with their regional representatives, and will in turn benefit from a supplementary group of leaders to work with in addition to Active Minds national staff

Reaching a Wider Community

Last month, Active Minds announced a goal to reach 1,000 new K-12 schools in 1,000 days. The new SAC structure will help us as leaders in the Active Minds movement to make the 1,000 in 1,000 goal possible, by providing more opportunities than ever to connect with, mentor, and be examples for new schools and chapters in our network. 

Ultimately, the SAC will continue to work toward helping students of all ages to fulfill our movement’s mission of changing the conversation around mental health, and this new structure is the next step in achieving that goal. I can’t wait to see all that we accomplish this year as a committee, and as a larger network as a whole. Together we can create a new culture around mental health on campus, in our schools, and across our communities.

Visit our website to learn more about this year’s Student Advisory Committee, and stay tuned for information about how to apply for next year’s SAC at the end of this school year. If you have any questions about how the SAC can work with your chapter or school, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and the rest of the SAC on Slack or the Chapters Team at chapters@activeminds.org.