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Mario Starks

Wellness in Color & Reflections from Students

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Wellness In Color: A Young, Gifted @Risk & Resilient Pre-Conference Gathering for Students


Many students know how difficult it can be to navigate the social systems of college life, but when you are a student of color, this journey comes with its own set of complex issues.  The Young, Gifted, @ Risk & Resilient pre-conference, called Wellness in Color, was held at the University of Michigann in late October to give students a space to dialogue about the impact of perceived discrimination, exploitation, and racism on their campuses and how these issues contributed to and affected their wellbeing and mental health. The graduate students at the pre-conference appeared quite vulnerable to emotional exhaustion and mental health distress. They reported feeling like they had opportunities to do meaningful work, but also susceptible to adverse experiences because of inequalities in their respective departments. These students expressed frustration with the mismatch between their research interest and that of the department; not being included in, or informed of, opportunities and expectations; and the compensation for their graduate teaching positions, which substantially lags behind the job market for people with their qualifications.

As one of the facilitators at the pre-conference, it was hard to hear the painful stories of my peers, but I was determined to leave them with a sense of hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for better environments that encourage positive mental health.  Hope for equitable opportunities regardless of race, class, or gender.  Hope that our advocacy leads us to stories of healing, thriving, and higher graduation rates for students of color.

Many thanks to the Steve Fund and The National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan for giving us a space to share our experiences and encourage each other before the conference. Thank you also to the faculty who spent time hearing our concerns and answering our questions.

~Shantalea Johns
Alumnus, Steve Fund Youth Advisory Board

Steve Fund announced as a 2019 Impact Grant Fund Recipient

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We’re thrilled to announce we’ve been chosen as a 2019 Impact Fund Grant Recipient by the team at Twilio. With their help, we’ll be able curate more expansive and new content for our existing support guides, our discussion forums, and our listening team, specifically designed for young people of color whose identities can cause risk factors for mental illness and emotional distress, which in turn can lead to possible life-threatening actions and behaviors. Learn more via

Young People of Color Guide

YPoC@7Cups (“Young People of Color @ 7Cups) is available on the 7 Cups platform for students of color seeking emotional support and volunteers who wish to provide such support.

Meeting Social Anxiety with Gratitude​

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At The Steve Fund, we welcome every November as a time for practicing and expressing gratitude. With the Thanksgiving holiday and the closing of the calendar year, it is a good time to take account of all that we have to be grateful for—be it health, family and friends, or simply the sunrise.

At the same time, this may be a season when many of us face social situations and interactions that bring feelings of fear and anxiety. These negative feelings, also known as social anxiety, stem from a hyper-social awareness, when one might worry about being judged or called out. For young people of color, social anxiety can also come from the anticipation of everyday racism and discrimination, in addition to misconceptions and stigma associated with mental health concerns. Now, research shows that one way to deal with anxiety is to practice gratitude (The Psychology of Gratitude2015 study). These studies show that by incorporating practices that acknowledge the positive outcomes in life, we can reduce anxiety and build stronger relationships.
This month, we want to bring messages of hope and support to young people of color who may be dealing with social anxiety. Here are a few tips to help you practice more gratitude:
  • Count your blessings—every day! This is the easiest and most effective way to bring more gratitude to your life. Make an extra effort to notice or count a new blessing on a daily basis. This practice will make showing and feeling gratitude fresh, and help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • Create a gratitude jar. A small box in your backpack or a glass jar on your desk is a great way to capture the little things that make you smile throughout the day. On a scrap of paper, write down the things you feel grateful for, the things that lift your spirits, or the things that make you laugh. As a bonus, when you are feeling down, read what made earlier days brighter.

  • Send a message of thanks. Reach out with a short text to a friend or family member thanking them for doing something that you appreciated–whether it was a thoughtful action or just being a text away. Studies show that this simple practice can help you feel better sooner when you are dealing with mental health issues.

This November, I invite you to look for ways to show gratitude with the people in your life. On behalf of everyone at The Steve Fund, I wish you a relaxing and joyful Thanksgiving Holiday, and I thank you for your support and for being a part of The Steve Fund community.

Be well,

Anuja Khemka

Diverse, Gifted & At Risk Conference hosted at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY – 11/15/19.
More photos.