By: Meelan Mohsin

Mental Health is a triggering topic for most, a misunderstood topic for some, and an important topic for all.

What is a Mental Illness?
Mental Health is often a triggering topic for many. However, there are so many students not getting the help they need. We all need to have a better grasp on how this impacts students.

People believe that Mental Health disorders such as depression only comes to people with horrible home lives or triggering memories, but that isn’t true. You can be the happiest person in the world with a fulfilling life then BAM, depression hits you like a bus! People that have mental illness are often misunderstood as well. There are cultural stigmas associated Negative consequences such as vulnerability, dehumanization, and frustration reveal that being misunderstood has the potential to damage or destroy therapeutic relationships.”

How Many students In The School System Are Affected?
Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point in their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%. 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia. 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder. So when students are diagnosed with mental illnesses schools are not prepared with the outcome on how students will act and perform in school experts say schools could play a role in identifying students with problems and helping them succeed. It’s a role many schools are not prepared for. “Educators face the simple fact that, often because of a lack of resources, there just aren’t enough people to tackle the job. And the ones who are working on it are often drowning in huge caseloads. Kids in need can fall through the cracks..”

The signs
The signs to look for in students who are struggling with mental health are: 
confused thinking, 
prolonged depression (sadness or irritability), 
feelings of extreme highs and lows, 
excessive fears, 
worries and anxieties, 
dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits, 
strong feelings of anger, 
strange thoughts (delusions) 
seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations), 
growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities,
suicidal thoughts, 
numerous unexplained physical ailments, 
and substance abuse.

Ways We Can Help
Ways we can help the school system with students who suffer from mental illnesses are to create a school environment of general well-being, and a climate where mental health isn’t stigmatized.

Another way is when a student does show signs of trouble, one of the first steps is to talk with them. That conversation will dictate what happens next.

The last way is a doctor or therapist may get involved for the first time. Often, school plays a vital role in connecting the student to a clinic which will allow more access to support. These are the steps we must take to improve the school environment for students.

This article was first published on http://www.energyconvertors.org

Rhonnie Brewer, Candidate for Shelby County School Board

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As we continue to build momentum around this year's general election on August 2nd, we would like to continue highlighting the new faces and brave souls who are taking a huge step into the political arena and throwing their name in the hat to become part of our school board in Shelby County.

The Shelby County Board of Education governs the business operations of Shelby County Schools and is comprised of nine  elected board members representing all districts in Shelby County. Through its governance, the Shelby County Board of Education is committed to its mission of preparing all students for success in learning, leadership, and life.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to share moments with some of the new faces we're seeing and I’m delighted to share some awareness around who these individuals are and what they have to share and offer the families of Shelby County.

Among the newer faces running for this year's election is Mrs. Rhonnie Brewer. Again, this is not an official endorsement blog. Rather an opportunity to present to this city one of the candidates for the commissioner race, but more than that, someone that's willing to take a stand and possibly serve in a greater capacity the families of Shelby County.

Rhonnie Brewer, Candidate for Shelby County School Board, is a community-minded professional who has a passion for building strong relationships within the Memphis metropolitan area. As President of the Guild at the Memphis Urban League, she focuses on driving the goals of the league, in order to support its initiative of empowering the community. She is also the Chief Visionary Officer of Socially Twisted a boutique firm focused on social change and community relations and founder of Memphis Startup, a startup support organization providing resources and support to the small business and technology ecosystems in Memphis, bringing together people and resources in an interconnected network of education and entrepreneurship.

She also has years of experience in event planning, leadership, and community relations through her commitments in various organizations such as Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, COPPER (Coalition for Organizing and Protecting People’s Equal Rights), Memphis Entrepreneur Academy, Community Shares, and several other organizations. Rhonnie is also a member of the National Coalition of Black Women and a Fellow of the Leadership Memphis Executive Class. Rhonnie also attended the Women's Campaign School at Yale University and recently announced her candidacy for Shelby County School Board, District 9.

Rhonnie is a community activist who has coined hashtag #Socialite4SocialChange because of her passion for social justice, education, community involvement, and civic engagement. In addition to her many endeavors, Rhonnie also co-hosts the "What’s Happening Myron Show", a local radio show about news, current events, and entertainment on 88.5 FM, The Voice of Shelby County Schools.

Below is my interview with Mrs. Brewer:

1. What is the inspiration behind your running for School Board Commissioner?

When my oldest daughter was in high school. I had a startling realization. We had created a college "cattle call." We sold our children a narrative that they were either "college bound"or they would be a failure. The truth is that there are many paths to success and our children deserve to be exposed to the options that are available to them. Whether they choose to learn a skilled trade, attend college, join the military, or even try their hand at entrepreneurship, they should have access.

2. Describe your district (ethnic makeup, populations, neighborhoods, income level, etc.) The district is very diverse it encompasses the historic Orange Mound Community, parts of Hickory Hill, East Memphis and a bit of the area around the University of Memphis. It is a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds and income levels.

3. What is your platform? My platform is built on three things: Quality Education, Skilled Job Opportunities, and Entrepreneurship.

Quality Education - I am dedicated and committed to serving the children of District 9. I believe all students should have the same quality of education regardless of zip code.

Skilled Job Opportunities - Over the last three years, I  have secured apprenticeship opportunities through Apprenticeship Fairs, most notably for high school seniors, who may not be college bound.

Entrepreneurship -  Over the past four years, I have led classes in entrepreneurship. I truly believe our youth have the capacity to venture beyond the lemonade stand.

4. How has the support been around you running for public office? There has been a tremendous amount of support around me running for office. I am motivated everyday by the people who believe in me and believe that I can help shape a better future for our students.

5. What are ways in which the public can help your particular efforts? Tell a friend! For years, I have encouraged people to have a "vote buddy" someone that holds you accountable when it is time to vote. We all get very busy in our lives and sometimes voting can seem like just one more thing to add to the "to do" list. Having a vote buddy, helps ensure you both make it to the polls. My hope is when you get there, you will both vote for me! Besides that, we can always use volunteers on the campaign and all are welcome.

6. Besides winning the election and serving as Board Commissioner, what other ways  (in the near future) are you planning to serve the community and the constituents of Shelby County? Currently, I am advocating to restore food security in our communities. Across the city, we have suffered from food deserts. This puts the most vulnerable of our community in jeopardy. There is a direct connection between hunger and educational performance. Additionally, I have hosted apprenticeship fairs for three years to help connect people to skilled-job opportunities. I also host an annual basketball camp called D.U.N.K. (Developing Urban Neighborhoods & Kids) Camp. We work with students to teach them not only basketball, but conflict resolution, volunteerism, civic engagement, and many other life skills.

7. Give a fun fact? Or something the public wouldn't know about you that you don't mind sharing? I am a huge sci-fi geek! I can watch hours of Doctor Who and recently fell in love with the new Lost In Space. Super heroes movies are top of my list! #WakandaForever!

8. What are some of the biggest challenges facing our district today? One of the issues that I have really been looking into is professional development. We have rolled out several new initiatives, programs, and even a new curriculum. As I visit schools throughout the district, the biggest concerns of administrators and educators alike is what they feel is the lack of professional development and training they received prior to these roll outs. This is alarming to me because they are the front line. If they are not comfortable with it, how do they effectively transfer this knowledge to students, staff, etc.?

Another major concern for me is uniformity, we must work to provide a uniform/consistent education across the board. Third grade in one school should reflect third grade in another. If a child has to move during the school year, they should be able to walk into their new classroom and pick up right where they left off.

And, we must address the "elephant in the room," TN Ready! We must continue to advocate on behalf of our students. In its current state, this is an unfair assessment of our students and does not provide a fair and balanced reflection of their capabilities. And, let’s face it, it’s time for a new solution.

9. What should the public know and understand about the role of Board Commissioner? The job of a Board Commissioner is to set policy and vision for the direction of the school board.

10. Tell us a little bit about yourself- Born and raised? Anything personal testament or journey? Schools attended? Etc. I am a native of South Central Los Angeles, however, I consider myself a "Memphian by Choice." I love this city and its citizens.

11. Any final thoughts?

Every child has a pathway to success, it is our job to help them at the fork in the road!

Thank you Mrs. Brewer for your time and contributions. We wish you much success in the upcoming election and future endeavors.

Don't forget: General Election. August 2nd

Make your voice count. Get out and vote.


Praying Mothers


Ms. Walisha Hawkins, mom and parent advocate, recently celebrated the NFL drafting of her youngest son, Central High School & Louisiana State University (LSU) graduate, Frank Herron.  Ms. Hawkins daughter, Ashley Hawkins, posted on Facebook this quote about her mom after the draft:

“we ain’t always did right, but she never stopped praying...”

As I sat amongst Frank’s family and friends, me being humbled and privileged to be one in the number, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past seven or so years of friendship I’ve shared with his mom, Wanlisha.

As proud as I am of Frank, his work ethic, and his recent accomplishments, my heart beamed in honor of my friend, who as her daughter penned accurately is a “praying mother.”

As we near Mother's Day, I thought it would be beneficial to capture this moment as a source of inspiration for someone else. So many like Wanlisha, come from unfavorable conditions where it is easy to conclude that life will just never be easy  Despite that seemingly harsh and unfair reality, wholehearted and confident faith in God and the words of the bible bring the spirit that “with God, anything is possible!” I salute my friend for having this level of faith and I’ve watched her live this faith amongst her family, friends, co-workers, and children. They watched momma pray. They watched momma sacrifice. They watched momma keep doing despite of. hey watched momma praise and thank God for it all.

Wanlisha, a Chicago native, moved her family to Memphis from East St. Louis about 21 years ago. Her advocacy work came because of her growing engagement as a parent advocate of her own children first. Frank, being diagnosed with a learning disability, had to also learn how to become an advocate for himself if he would ever push through the barriers that limit students with learning disabilities and/or special needs.

She noticed early the academic struggles of Frank and stopped at nothing to ensure he would receive the best educational opportunities. It was at this point, Wanlisha begin to slowly understand the fight she would have in fighting for her children, but yet she pressed and prayed. She transferred Frank from a West Memphis school to a Memphis school when he was in the 7th grade, and from that point, Wanlisha became highly active, engaged and most importantly, something our parents something miss being-very vocal. She learned of her rights as a parent and took it from there.

Before there were advocacy groups, before the days of parent voice, Wanlisha was maneuvering through the advocacy space without technical definition and/or training. Interestingly, by the time I stepped into the wonderful world of advocacy, it was no surprise that I grabbed hold to Wanlisha and took her along with me, for she had way more insight than anyone I knew of at the time. She shared her story and she helped other parents.

Frank ended up receiving the supports he needed. He graduated from Central High School and went on to LSU and the rest is really history. Last summer, Frank finished his time at LSU completing his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and then he went on to prepare to enter the 2018 NFL draft.


Late Saturday evening, the call came through. Frank Herron, just a black kid from Memphis, who never had it easy, but had a praying mother signed with the New England Patriots. I am excited about what’s to come out of this young man and just how his story can and will impact the lives of many-starting with the kids right here in Memphis.

And lastly, we salute my friend, colleague and sister. I want her to know that God has way more in store for her life, even beyond seeing her children live out their dreams. We applaud this mom for pressing through years of struggle to get to this place of triumph.

I am convinced that her ability to advocate helped to propel Frank’s academic success and in turn, she imparted into him the importance of advocating for self. What a gift and what a legacy that God has afforded Wanlisha the opportunity to build. We look forward to the next chapter.

To parents everywhere—please know that your prayers do not go unheard and dreams still do come true. Keep believing. Keep pressing. And keep praying. Moments like this helps to remind us that no matter what or children might endure, we have a God that’s covering us all. With that, we can rest in knowing, it’s all apart of God’s Plan. (Thanks Drake for the timely reminder) #goMemphis #Memphismade #blackkidsfromMemphisWINS #parentvoicematters #allparentsrock #aprayingmother

Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere!!!


Bridge Builder Janiya Douglas Earns Princeton Prize in Race Relations

This article was first published on www.bridgesusa.org

White Station High School senior and Bridge Builders CHANGE Fellow Janiya Douglas is one of 28 high school students from around the United States named as winners of the 2018 Princeton Prize in Race Relations. The students were honored during the annual Princeton Prize Symposium on Race held on the Princeton University campus.

The awards recognize young people who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the cause of positive race relations and who have worked to increase understanding and respect among all races.

The winners participated in a two-day program on campus that included presentations and a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the founding of the prize. The Princeton Prize carries cash awards up to $1,000 for students in grades 9-12 in 27 regions around the country.

Janiya was honored for her work with the Education Justice (EDJ) cohort of CHANGE, working to organize community-wide campaigns to advance educational justice in Memphis. EDJ has facilitated workshops for more than 800 youth over the past two years and partnered with organizations such as Black Lives Matter Memphis and Stand For Children. Janiya is also a regional strategy team member and student leader for 9-0-ONE (Organizing Network for Equity). She also has spoken at the National Civil Rights Museum, coordinated a webinar on social justice and service for the National Youth Leadership Conference, and presented on “Education Not Incarceration.”


Bridge Builder Janiya Douglas, pictured fifth from left, was one of 28 students to win the 2018 Princeton Prize in Race Relations from Princeton University.

Other 2018 winners of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations included:

Alabama (Irondale): Madeline Shackelford, a senior at Shades Valley High School, represented the YWCA of central Alabama’s Social Justice Department on planning the Alabama Youth Alliance Summit. For nearly 10 months, she met with youth leaders from various groups to organize the program, which focused on equal access to education and equitable solutions to educational issues in the state.

California (Los Angeles): Sheila Milon, a senior at John Marshall High School, worked extensively to serve her community through the Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change Leadership Council, which emphasizes racial unity through humanitarian projects. She also created an Intersectional Feminism Club that features programming for girls of all backgrounds to discuss gender norms and women’s empowerment. Further, she participated in Project Bridge, which stemmed from the aftermath of the 1992 L.A. riots and seeks to foster understanding and unity between minority groups.

California (San Diego): Luz Victoria Simon Jasso, a junior at High Tech High School in Chula Vista, designed and implemented an Ethnic Studies course at her school. Since it was first taught in fall 2016, the course has grown in size, added two advisory teachers, and expanded the Ethnic Studies Leadership Team from one to four students.

California (San Francisco): Sho Sho Leigh Ho, a junior at Castilleja High School in Palo Alto, was an intern at the Literary Lab’s project at Stanford University, where she explored representations of race and ethnicity in American fiction from 1789 to 1964. In 2017, she founded Unleashed, a student-run organization that highlights racial issues for conversation and examination by middle-schoolers nationwide. She is also co-leader of her school’s Diversity Club. Further, she founded a political action club, Bay Area Consortium for Ideas and Inquiry, which organized an Immigration Awareness Day and studies migration, gentrification and the role race plays in the division between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

Colorado (Denver): Solliana Kineferigh, a junior at Denver School of Science and Technology: Stapleton, has since middle school participated in Students Taking Action Making Progress (S.T.A.M.P.), a citywide conference that trains high school students to develop and teach classes to middle-schoolers about issues facing students, especially those of color. She is now one of its curriculum developers and teachers at her school. She also founded POC POV (People of Color, Point of View), which encourages students of color and white students to build connections and understanding.

Colorado (Denver): Iftu Abdi, a junior at Denver School of Science and Technology: Stapleton, has participated in Students Taking Action Making Progress (S.T.A.M.P.) for two years as a curriculum developer and teacher. In that role, she has focused on the immigrant student experience. She also established “Heart of Immigration,” a social project through Urban Youth of Denver to explore the complex identities of immigrants through storytelling.

Connecticut (Farmington): Sydni Scott, a senior at Miss Porter’s School, serves as head of diversity. In this role, she plans lectures and conversations on race and diversity. She also developed AWARE (Affinity for White Anti-Racist Education), which organized affinity groups to hold nuanced discussions about race.

Florida (Miami): Tiana Headley, a senior at Maritime and Science Technology Academy, studied the history of her school and published information that challenged many ideas about its progress in combating desegregation. She also created a monthly Social Justice & Sandwich discussion forum and was instrumental in involving her school in the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” program.

Georgia (Atlanta): Syd Pargman, a junior at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, founded the Race Against the Lines Project, which demonstrates the positive impact team sports can have on race relations. In this work, Pargman interviewed athletes, created a video and planned a quiz bowl to give non-athlete students the opportunity to join a team with members of different races.

Illinois (Chicago): Carina Peng, a junior at Northside College Preparatory High School, who is originally from China, has focused her race relations activities out of her own experience as an immigrant and English Language Learner (ELL). She organized the Report Card Campaign, which involved a team of students meeting with ELL immigrants and refugees and asking them to evaluate their schools on issues like access, safety and English learning tools. Peng’s efforts led to an invitation to engage with Chicago officials on the topic at a public hearing, resulting in a new citywide ordinance. She also founded the Northside DREAMers & Support Club, which conducts weekly cross-cultural discussions to build community.

Kansas (Kansas City): Lauren Winston, a junior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, is the founder and leader of Bridges KC, a nonprofit organization that teaches students about bridging the gap between people of different cultures. Winston is also a student representative on the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the Parent Teacher Student Association. Beyond her school, she helps lead a county library-sponsored bus tour about the historical racial housing dividing line in Kansas City.

Maryland (Frederick): Olivia Hiltke, a junior at Linganore High School, designed a “Life Around the World: Cultural Diversity” event to promote understanding among different cultures. The event included a range of speakers who shared their stories with groups of teens, prompting follow-up discussions on cultural awareness.

Massachusetts (Boston): Adonis Logan, a senior at Melrose High School, is president of the Do the Right Thing Club, which was created to focus on racial dialogue among students and staff. Logan also led a workshop called “Stereotype(m)e” as part of his school’s annual Teach-In Community Day. Further, he has served as vice president of the Keystone program, a youth leadership program of the Boys and Girls Club, and as a member of the Melrose Alliance against Violence.

Michigan (Detroit): Maren Roeske, a senior at Grosse Pointe South High School, is the founder of SEEDS (Student Empowerment: Education for a Diverse Society), an anti-racism education program that targets individual and interpersonal racism. She also co-founded RATE (Restorative Action Through Exchange) to foster connections between her school and University Prep High School in Detroit.

Missouri (St. Louis): Sohan Kancherla, a senior at Saint Louis Priory School, founded the Bridges to America program three years ago to support immigrants and refugees and to increase awareness of issues facing immigrants among his fellow students. He has organized various service opportunities, including teaching weekly Citizenship Literacy classes at the International Institute of Metropolitan Saint Louis, leading clothing drives, and organizing fundraising events. He also is a founding member of the Interfaith Quest Youth Council, which organizes panel discussions and other programming to help youth experience interfaith interactions and explore diversity.

New Jersey (Central and South): Rebekah Strauss, a junior at Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, organized a peaceful sit-in with other students in response to a series of offensive social media posts directed at African Americans. The students then organized an assembly to share experiences of discrimination, and Strauss presented her spoken-word poem. The school’s administration responded by creating the Student Coalition for Racial Equality, for which Strauss serves as a leader responsible for creating lesson plans and exercises to assist teachers in providing a broader scope of history and culture.

New Jersey (Northern): Toibat Ayankubi, a senior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, serves as class president and ambassador for the Minority Achievement Community at her school. She developed the Peer-to-Peer training program to prepare students of color for AP courses, and also created the Mini-MAC program to provide high school mentors to minority middle-schoolers. She also has worked with other students to hold workshops on bias at the school. Beyond her school, Ayankubi is a student leader with 9 Miles, a race relations program that partners with a temple in Milburn.

New York (Rochester): Eman Muthana, a senior at World of Inquiry School, has brought World Hijab Day to her community — a full day dedicated to helping people from all backgrounds to learn about the hijab and the girls and women who choose to wear them. Since starting the program at her school in her first year when new to the United Stated and to the English language, Muthana has since grown the program to more than 20 schools throughout the region.

New York (New York City): Nupol Kiazolu, a senior at Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice in Brooklyn, founded the Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter at her school, and has organized numerous initiatives advocating for social justice and racial understanding. These include a voter-registration drive, a “Future of the City March,” and bringing together BLM Youth Coalitions with families of those lost to police brutality. This school year, she organized a “Know Your Rights Campaign.” She was a counter-protestor in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August last year, and wrote about the experience for The Huffington Post.

Ohio (Cleveland): Courtney Reed, a senior at Hawken School in Gates Mill, took an intensive course on identity and became aware about how she had suppressed her own African American identity. This realization prompted her to reach out to other students of color, and she conducted a survey about their experiences that was then presented to the school’s trustees. As a result, the administration added a diversity statement to the school’s website, committed to starting affinity groups, and announced diversity-and-inclusion goals to its strategic plan. Her work also prompted the Student Senate to push for diversity training. Reed also helped organize school events for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month.

Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh): Ciara Sing, a senior at CAPA High School, has served as president of the Black Student Union since her sophomore year. In this role, she has led student workshops, organized programming for Black History Month, attended conferences and participated in cultural events in and around Pittsburgh. She is president of the Pittsburgh Public School District’s African American Centers for Advanced Studies Council and serves on a Police and Community Relations Council.

Pennsylvania (Philadelphia): Jared Elters Dempsey, a senior at Coatesville Area High School, planned a peaceful protest against racism in response to two racially charged events at his school. About 2,000 students and community members joined the protest from a diverse range of backgrounds. Dempsey is also class president and the student school board representative. He is a group facilitator for discussions about improving race relations for student leaders and the general student community.

Tennessee (Nashville): Carrie Elcan, a sophomore at Ensworth School, co-founded “Tearing Down the Walls,” a two-day race relations and leadership conference for independent school students in the Southeast. The purpose of the conference is to empower students from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and to build skills and develop networks. Elcan is also interested in civil rights history and in creative writing.

Texas (Dallas): Cassandra Hernandez, a sophomore at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, co-founded Safe Space at her school, a club intended to build awareness and empathy between students and faculty. She helped develop training and open forums on topics ranging from bullying to immigration. Hernandez also has been active in educating the students at her all-girls school about breast cancer.

Texas (Houston): Alex Nelson-Groocock, a junior at Lamar Senior High School, founded “Speak Up!” — an after-school program to teach public speaking skills to inner-city students. The curriculum also focuses on how to use speaking skills for conflict resolution and how to talk about racial discrimination. Nelson-Groocock is coordinating the work of volunteers and hopes to expand the program to 10 schools next year. He also created materials on debate skills that he is distributing to elementary school teachers for their classrooms.

Washington (Bellingham): Lauren Morales, a senior at Squalicum High School, is president of the United Diversity Club. One of her key achievements is establishing the Multicultural Meals program, a monthly event that brings together community members from many cultures to share a meal and conversation at the school. Morales also showed her creativity when she designed T-shirts on topical race-related issues to be worn by students and staff alike.

Washington, D.C. (Charlottesville): Zyahna Taija-Juan, a junior at Charlottesville High School, founded the Black Student Union in her first year at the school. Under her leadership, the union organized school-wide events on dialogue and diversity, and also partnered with community groups, including the Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia, the Charlottesville Youth Council and the City of Promise neighborhood. She planned events for Black History Month and was active in the debate around removing Confederate statues in the city.