Aspen Ideas fest for teens: Brooklyn students tackle mental health, immigration, and more…

Aspen Ideas fest for teens: Brooklyn students tackle mental health, immigration, and more…

Kimberly Gil knows what it’s like to struggle with mental health and not have a place to turn for support.

Gil, a 16-year-old sophomore at the High School for Social Justice in Bushwick, Brooklyn, immigrated to the U.S. as a kid and struggled to acclimate. She often felt like she couldn’t talk to her family about what she was going through. It’s a familiar story among her classmates, Gil said.

“Many of our students have lost a loved one. They’ve gone through sexual harassment, sexual assault, depression, self-harm,” said Gil. But when it comes to bringing up those topics with their families, many teens are concerned “they won’t believe me, or they won’t be there for me.”

That sense of isolation is what drove Gil and seven classmates to come up with a new approach to supporting student mental health: creating a space in school where kids can share what they’re going through with fellow teenagers.

Gil is a member of the school’s team for the second annual Aspen Challenge – a youth version of the famous Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado where teams of public school teenagers choose a pressing social challenge and come up with an innovative solution. Her team was among 20 high schools last month presenting their ideas on various issues from mental health, to rats, to immigration.
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