Pathways of Possibility: Amped Apprentice Leaders Advocate for Communal Wellbeing

When Estrella, Sydni, and Imani witnessed their classmates and friends struggling with mental health and mental health services at school, they knew they wanted to create a pathway toward change and support. In order to reimagine in-school responses to students’ mental health needs, the trio of Amped Apprentice Leaders worked collaboratively with each other and their mentors to develop an action-research project: throughout the spring semester they facilitated dialogue, information sessions, and problem-solving circles driven by data they collected from their peers and community about mental health and Baton Rouge schools. Sydni, Imani, and Estrella were able to share their important findings with multiple community audiences. 

"In my experience, my school was worried about my grades and not my mental health. My school seems to care more about things like dress code than they do about mental health,” Sydni told me, as we prepared for the trio to lead an intergenerational community circle. The three middle school students walked me through their project: their motivations, their driving questions (“How to decrease the stigma around mental health in schools and school systems?”), and their own personal stakes relating to mental health awareness and services in schools. They had already facilitated their circle twice before engaging our Beloved Community circle participants, and they were ready to facilitate it a third time for our community.

The seeds for this CPAR (critical participatory action research) project were planted in Amped Studio Afterschool, where we gave young folks in our community the space and opportunity to share and explore their own mental health struggles and triumphs. In Humanities Amped, we often find ourselves asking what comes first: civic engagement, community building, or storytelling? Imani, Estrella, and Sydni prove that they run alongside each other as three interconnected root systems that nurture us, carry us, and support us. Through this support and their friendship and commitment to their community, the trio created a dynamic, well researched, and heartfelt presentation.

Even though our plans for this year did not include a student research conference as they have in the past, Imani, Sydni, and Estrella saw and acted on an opportunity to illuminate, articulate, and educate. They presented their research project three times: at Roots Camp, at the Educators Rising State Conference, and at the Humanities Amped and Baton Rouge Community College Beloved Community Check-In Circle. Through mentorship, support, and readily available platforms and pathways, Imani, Estrella, and Sydni were able to implement their vision for change as thought leaders in our community. Through scaffolding and framework support, they were able to offer us all a performance of possibility: with a whole community supporting and rooting for us, we can enact the change we need.
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The Amped Summer Program starts this week! We're centering fun through field trips, story circles, college and career readiness, leadership workshops, games, and more.

Want to learn more about Critical Participatory Action Research? Check out our Amplified Classrooms Curriculum
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