Congratulations to the 2021 Jared's Fund Youth Fellowship Recipients!

Jared's Fund was deeply encouraged by the response of young people in the Montclair community and is proud to support another group of young leaders who are spearheading efforts to combat the stigma around mental health and illness. 

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Alizaya Londono

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Devany Kurtti

The purpose of Alizaya's and Devany's project for Jared's Fund Youth Fellowship, "Growing Mental Warriors", is to address the conversation around mental health with younger audiences. We aim to have age-appropriate discussions with middle school children. Middle school is a vulnerable time for children as puberty occurs, and in many cases, mental illness onsets by 14 years old. Our project wants to spread awareness about mental health and the importance of being knowledgeable about mental issues. Each session will educate participants on a specific topic concerning mental health. The goal is to end the stigma around mental health, debunk misconceptions, and to help young people become as aware of their mental health as they are of their physical health.

Alizaya is a rising sophomore at Rutgers University studying Psychology.  Devany is a rising freshwoman who will be attending Rutgers Fall 2021 to study Psychology. Tracy Klingener, MA, DRCC, LAC Director of Suicide Prevention Services, from the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris will be their Mentor.

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Maura McGeever

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Natalie Smith

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Salma Benchekroun

Maura's, Natalie's, and Salma's project for Jared's Fund Youth Fellowship is to build a stress free, mental health garden at MHS. The garden will be called "Jared's Garden" dedicated to ending the stigma of mental illness. The garden will be a place for any and all MHS students to relax, gather their thoughts, and feel at ease while at school. We want this garden to be a comfortable, and beautiful spot on campus. We plan on placing a bench in the middle of the garden and creating three stone-tile paths leading to the bench.  We want these stones to honor former MHS students who dealt with mental health issues, so some of the stones will be dedicated to specific people. We also plan on having a raised garden bed or two with manageable flowers and plants. and possibly painted rocks to enhance the environment.  We think hosting an event towards the end of the summer or beginning of the school year where students from MHS and people from the Montclair community can come and paint rocks will be a great way to make the garden more personal for everybody. The rocks will vary from having quotes, artwork, inspirational messages and dedications.

Thank you to Misty Avinger and Marley Pradieu from the 2019 JFYF Cohort who created this idea and started the process with the Montclair Board of Education.

Maura is a rising Senior at Montclair High School.  Natalie and Salma are rising Juniors at Montclair High School. Ms. Brianne Kvetkus who is an Art Teacher at MHS and also the Advisor for “End the Stigma” Club at MHS will be their Mentor.

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Alejandro Ledesma

Alejandro's project for the Jared’s Fund Youth Fellowship involves promoting mindfulness and meditation for young people, which can be a powerful tool for managing stress and maintaining focus and balance in daily life. To spread the word about the benefits of mindfulness within our community, I am partnering with the Mindful Awareness Academy for Children, (MAAC) serving as a type of student ambassador and setting up and coordinating mindfulness meetups around Montclair this summer. I am also building a website where I will promote the meetups and provide information and resources for students interested in mindfulness and meditation. Lastly, I am attending virtual mindfulness meetings with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) and hopefully interviewing their teenage participants about their experience with mindfulness practices and meditation.

Alejandro is a rising Senior at Montclair High School.  Andrea Smith-Morgan founder of MAAC will be Alejandro’s mentor.

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Elijah Pradieu

Elijah's project for the Jared’s Fund Youth Fellowship is to create a short documentary film, that will focus on local skaters and how skateboarding can help maintain a healthy mindset. I think that a film that young audiences can connect with is an extremely beneficial tool to use to be able to connect with youth around mental health issues. Hopefully, the film will have the ability to impact different groups of people and tear down any stigmas that have been associated with skaters and with anyone who suffers from mental health issues. The documentary will draw the viewers into the lives of young skaters who use their hobbies to cope with the stress of the world. I hope that my work with the fellowship will be able to impact individuals and give them the opportunity to make a positive impact on their future by reflecting on their everyday activities. Elijah is a rising Junior at Montclair High School.  Al Shurdom who is the Coordinator of Self Help, Advocacy and Education for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris will be Elijah's Mentor.