Events | Trainings
2017 Champion for Change
2017 Champion for Change Award
At the 2017 MACMH annual fundraising gala, we recognized three young people for their advocacy and commitment to advancing children’s mental health in their communities and schools. Below are the three recipients of our 2017 Champion for Change Award.
Ruchika Kamojjala, 11th Grade, Wayzata High School
15-year-old Ruchika Kamojjala recently began serving as president of Helping Every At Risk Teen (HEART), a student-run nonprofit created at Wayzata High School. In the year leading up to her transition to president, Ruchika demonstrated fantastic leadership skills within the organization and a commitment to shining a light on the prevalence of mental health challenges. Working alongside her team, she helped organize a variety of events for students, parents and community members, including a Wellness Week and two Stand Against Stigma events. She also assisted in starting a campaign called I’m Still Me, which was the inspiration for a benefit concert that drew together 200 students and community members. Looking ahead, Ruchika is excited to continue growing the organization and using HEART as a platform to let students with mental health challenges know they’re not alone.
Gavyn Nybakken, 7th Grade, Skyview Middle School
At 12 years old, Gavyn Nybakken has been a true champion for others his age. After experiencing years of bullying and witnessing his friends and peers face similar types of harassment, Gavyn decided to organize an anti-bullying club in his school when he was 9. Starting out small, the program grew so quickly that students were on a waiting list to join. Alongside one of his teachers, he wrote, choreographed and directed a play in which the actors portrayed scenes where kids experienced real-life bullying situations. By performing the play for the entire school, students were able to ask the actors questions in a safe zone—helping to both build understanding of the reality of bullying and also to guide students in seeking support from adults. Today, Gavyn is involved in Fidgety Fairy Tales, a theatrical group that focuses on generating awareness of mental health. Being a part of this cast has allowed him to work toward his goal of eliminating bullying everywhere by encouraging all people to accept each other’s differences.
Reed Sietsema, 12th Grade, Capitol View Alternative Learning Program
Passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding mental health disorders, 17-year-old Reed Sietsema has used his voice and personal story to be an advocate for others with mental health challenges. For two years, he has visited the Minnesota Capitol to speak with state representatives and educate them on the importance of mental health programs and policies that support children and teens—particularly youth of color. Through his involvement with the Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative, he was featured in a film called Children’s Mental Health: The Whole Story designed to raise awareness about mental health and trauma. By sharing his own experiences and those of other students, Reed is committed to speaking up and reducing stigma around mental health.