Emma Girls know they can to change the world.
For Katherine W. ’17, this means raising awareness and combating the social stigmatization children and young adults face in mental health. Through Emma’s personalized capstone program, Signature, she launched the club NAMI@Emma, the first high-school chapter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
In its inaugural year NAMI@Emma has educated the Emma community about mental illnesses, the chemical and sometimes physical differences in the brain the cause them, how to identify when someone is experiencing symptoms, and how to reduce stigma and stereotypes related to mental illness.
The group has received considerable support from the New York State Office of Mental Health and was invited to take part in a conference put on by the National Institute of Mental Health and the NAMI-NYS Education Conference and Legislative Advocacy Day where they advocated for mental health bills for schools.
Throughout each experience Katherine has been researching and compiling resources to build a “club in a box” model that could be applied in other schools across the Capital Region. She hopes to empower student leaders in these schools through a one-day seminar, developing a yearlong plan and fundraising ideas, and mentoring.
Katherine believes that educating students at the middle and high school levels is ideal timing.
“Educating others at this point in their lives gives them a chance to really understand mental illness and will not only help decrease the stigma, but also help them be aware when encountering mental illness—seeing and recognizing it in their friends, or knowing where to go when experiencing symptoms. The sooner you recognize it, the better the outcomes are going to be,” she said.
While she works towards her long-term goal, her efforts are already earning her recognition within the mental health community. On May 3, NAMI@Emma was honored at this year’s “What’s Great in our State 2016” event.
“What’s Great in our State” is an annual event hosted by the New York Office of Mental Health, the New York State Council on Children and Families, and a number of mental health advocacy organizations which celebrate individuals and programs that advance the cause of children’s mental health in New York state.
“The members of NAMI@Emma are showing the world that young people can make a difference in the pursuit of mental health awareness,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan.
In addition to this incredible recognition by New York State, Katherine has been accepted to be an ANNpower Fellow and attend the ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership Forum, a three-day leadership training and mentorship program held in New York City this June.
After the forum, she will have the opportunity to apply for a grant that would fund her initiative to bring increased awareness and understanding of mental illness to the community.
Katherine is a powerful example of what girls can do when given the opportunity to pursue their personal passions.
“We are tremendously proud of Katherine and the NAMI@Emma group,” said Interim Head of School Dr. Susan R. Groesbeck. “Their mission and hard work exemplify Emma’s commitment to improving the world through compassion and kindness.”
Congratulations, Katherine on this outstanding recognition!
Updated: Katherine and the NAMI@Emma club's award was covered in the Albany Times Union