To commemorate May 2021 as Mental Health Month the Englewood Municipal Alliance for Stigma-Free Englewood and the Department of Health and other agencies including the Defining Moments Foundation held a poetry/poster contest for all Englewood students of all ages. The contest was announced by one of DMAE’s guidance counselors, Jalesah Brooks at the end of March. Students could earn cash prizes as well as free attendance for a summer leadership conference.
“It was great working with Stigma-Free Englewood to put this together. I didn’t participate in judging the contest but I read all of the entries and they were beautiful and insightful,” Ms. Brooks said.
The theme for the contest was “See the Person, Not the Illness” in recognition of Mental Health Month. Acknowledging mental health also increases the knowledge of mental illness. The more students recognize and understand mental health the more comfortable they may feel with reaching out for help.
“Mental health is really important to me. I’ve struggled a lot with my mental health, especially in this last year, but expressing myself creatively through writing poetry really helps me,” junior Christine Salazar said.
Christine won 1st place for her poem, “See Me.” She said that writing the poem was a way for her to escape and express herself.
Covid-19 promoted new and unexpected circumstances that made many students and adults feel sad and depressed. Students might have felt alone and this contest was a way to express themselves; this was true for Christine and others.
Junior Xavier Hamlett, who placed 2nd in the poetry contest, expressed his frustrations about school in his poem, “These People Don’t Understand.”
“It was a way to express what I felt. The theme was relatable,” Xavier said.
Elementary school winner Marieliz Beltre Bloise, a fifth grader from McCloud, gave encouragement in her poem, “It’s OK to Be Sad Mad or Sick.”
Most entries were poems from high school students, but two students were recognized by Englewood’s Stigma-Free Foundation for poster submission: junior LaNee Thomas and freshman Lina Kim.
Christine and Xavier won free attendance to the Lindsey Meyer Teen Institute leadership conference. All winners received a cash prize of $25-$75.
“The Stigma-Free Poetry/Poster Contest went well and if this does become an annual contest I hope more students will participate each year,” Ms. Brooks said.