Maggie Whited, a second year student at MCLA, is a student leader active in addressing issues of mental health awareness. For the last two years she has worked to form the Association for Neurodivergent Awareness (ANA), an MCLA club. The ANA provides peer support and work against the stigma of mental health issues. She has also galvanized her peers in the Dance Company Club to volunteer regularly at a number of local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the local soup kitchen, food pantry, and the local homeless/transitional shelter. Under her leadership, Dance Company even organized a Valentines Dance party for the local residents of the shelter. Over her breaks, Maggie interns at Community Interventions Program (CIP) in her hometown of Arlington, MA. CIP is a short term adolescent and residential treatment program that services youth from the Department of Children and Families. This experience, and the above mentioned involvement, provides invaluable experience in her future field. Maggie hopes that her work with youth will address the root causes of mental illness and prevent needing the various services of the organizations in which she volunteers.
I believe that almost everyone faces mental health challenges at some point in their lives and that this issue is unfortunately regularly ignored when looking at overall health. As a result, I am dedicated to being an advocate for those with mental health issues. My true passion is for working with teenagers with high risk factors. These adolescents are often poor and their families have fewer resources available. Teens are also at the right place in their development to understand their situation and make changes before this issue affects their adult life. I started a club at MCLA to offer peer support for students affected by mental illness as well to combat the crippling loneliness that often accompanies such illness. I also regularly volunteer at the local transitional homeless shelter. As Vice President of Dance Company, I leverage our membership to further support students experiencing mental illness. During school breaks I work with youth that have high risk behaviors in a short term residential treatment center. I am absolutely passionate about working towards destigmatizing mental illness. It has become my life's purpose and I find it incredibly empowering knowing that I can positively impact these people's lives for years.