Young people need a space just for us. High school and college can be tough — there’s pressure to succeed without ways for us to take care of ourselves. If you’re feeling stressed, remember you are not alone.
Together, we can find the help, hope, and healing we need to thrive! It seems a day doesn’t go by without a community trauma. As young people of color, we can rely on each other and our communities to build resilience and gain the skills we need to thrive.
Our Youth Advisory Board Speaks
The Steve Fund Youth Advisory Board is focused on the strengths we can all use to stay resilient in difficult situations. Watch and read their ideas — and then share yours!
Sofia Marin, Vernon Hills High School“In the moment where I thought I had reached the limit, I had gone further…”
Kendellyn Duncan, Independence High School
Our friend Kendellyn talks about gun violence and the emotional impact on our generation — and pleads with adults to make changes to protect us.
Anoushka Lal, Walter Payton College Prep
“I have found that it is not the adversities that matter but how you respond to them. Your responses determine your character; personally, my character is how I derive self-value and success.”
Emma-Lee Furrowh, Hampton University
“My family, my faith, and my determination in life all contribute to my resilience…”
Michael Brown, Stanford University
“Resiliency is about shining brightly despite the inevitable dark or difficult moments that we all encounter in life…
Resiliency is about resistance. It is about defying obstacles and norms that you might think will hold you back. As a queer Black person with a bipolar diagnosis, I have run into stigma time and time again. Whether the discrimination is attributed to racism, homophobia, or ableism, it is often connected to conservative cultural, political, or social norms. It is important to question these norms and to facilitate discourse about the issues we witness in the world.
Resiliency is about awareness. Having a culture of awareness about mental health (among other societal issues) enables collective resilience. Issues like sexism, racism, and ableism (including mental health stigma) have a societal impact that influences all of our interpersonal relationships and our relationship with self. Consequently, these issues should matter to us. Not in the sense that we should feel responsible for resolving these issues, but more so in the sense that we should become aware of these issues and should care to spread awareness. It could save a life.
Resiliency is about overcoming. Especially concerning mental health, ableism operates through the normalization of social marginalization due to fear of and misconceptions about mental illness. This contributes to individuals suffering in silence due to fear of judgment due to mental health stigma when experiencing mental health symptoms. Another effect of mental health stigma is denial. Denial that you might be facing mental health problems, and denying yourself the treatment and support that you need and deserve. This is something that I’ve gone through firsthand.
When I had my first episode, I was more than one thousand miles away from home. As time went by, my symptoms worsened and my behavior became increasingly erratic. It was unclear to me and my classmates what was wrong, but when my friends reached out to my mother, she flew to immediately to get me in front of my psychiatrist.
Whenever someone is struggling with mental health, it is important to have relationships and safe spaces that allow for self-expression. This looks like providing space for your friends and loved ones to vent (and vice versa), journaling for self-care, and seeking support from hotlines or medical professionals when appropriate. I’ve learned from my personal experiences that many people, especially youth and young adults, do not know how to support someone going through a mental health crisis, let alone understand how to identify symptoms of a disorder or signs of a mental health episode. This is knowledge that everyone should have for themselves and to protect their friends and loved ones.
Resiliency is about shining brightly despite the inevitable dark or difficult moments that we all encounter in life. It is about perseverance through the various ups and downs thrown at us. It is defining your joy autonomously, without being held back by judgment and social norms. It is getting up each day and trying to move forward with our lives. And especially when we cannot give our best, it is about having grace and love for ourselves.
Nana Opare-Addo, The Brooklyn Latin School
“We like to believe that we possess a strength deep within
that far overpowers the sound of the storms…
“On Resilience” by Nana Opare-Addo (15):
It’s weird really
how they cry days and nights
slumped against the bloodied cabins
bowing down to a God they’d never fully understood.
While grasping the frail strings of L-A-B-O-R
they wait to soak themselves in the light
known as familiarity and comfort —
safe from Pandora’s
We like to imagine that we’re free and not so blissfully imperfect.
We like to imagine that the red grooves and gaping wounds
deep within our fragile skin
will disappear as quickly as they came.
We like to believe that we possess a strength deep within
that far overpowers the sound of the storms
and the weight of the dregs that tarnish our vessel.
We’d like to plug our ears and gouge out our glassy eyes
choosing not to face reality head on.
But maybe someday, we won’t have to stagger
blind and deaf—unsure of ourselves.
Maybe someday, we will look Pandora straight in the eyes
with an unwavering look of defiance
realizing that we, too, are resilient.
University of Maryland
“I’m unlearning and relearning that resiliency doesn’t have to manifest in the kind of mental toughness that takes everything in stride without missing a step”</p
Prompt: What does resiliency mean to you?
I consider myself a crybaby. In the ups and downs of life, I cry relatively often—as an emotional release, when cutting onions, or sometimes simply because I haven’t had a good cry in a while. When a movie includes a character death, poorly written or not, you best believe my waterworks will be on.
For a very long time, I associated crying with weakness. I never identified as a resilient individual. How could I, when the fictional heroes I saw seemed to just push through life-changing crises? To me, resiliency was like being a metal wall—never breaking, never bending to outside factors. These sentiments were echoed by my parents, who repeatedly told me that crying never solved anything.
It took multiple therapy sessions to deconstruct this idea and figure out what resiliency looked like for me. After burning out from a particularly stressful academic year, I was worried about my well-being going into the next. I asked my therapist at the time if she thought I might fail my classes.
She immediately said no. When I asked her how she could be so sure, she replied: “because you’ve always made it through.” While this was a simple, almost obvious statement, it made me wonder. My therapist was the woman who’s seen my lowest moments and my ugliest cries. And despite all that, she had unwavering faith in my ability to succeed. Why?
To some degree, I realized I also associated resiliency with getting hit, then bouncing back immediately and immaculately. Through subsequent sessions, I learned that it was okay to take the time to grieve before moving forward. When I got dismissed from a part-time job on my first day last spring, it was okay for me to spend a day locked in my room before looking for another. I didn’t need to play it off as a “whatever, it happens.” Crying is an indicator that something impacted me deeply—positively, negatively, or physically—but it doesn’t mean I’m fragile.
I’m unlearning and relearning that resiliency doesn’t have to manifest in the kind of mental toughness that takes everything in stride without missing a step. For me, it’s also having the courage to be vulnerable, to acknowledge when I’m at a breaking point and need some space before trying again.
My therapist ended up being right—I passed my classes and found a new position a couple weeks later. I cried a lot, but I made it through.