Thursday, April 27, 2017

Magnifying The Mind - Teens Raising Awareness about Mental Health

 In Reach's Youth Ambassadors at Parkdale High School in partnership with the Parkdale Student Government Association held an awesome mental health forum. Pictured with presenters and adult facilitators.

“1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.”

On April 26, 2017, IN REACH’s Youth Ambassadors (YA) at Parkdale High School and members of the Student Government Association hosted a Mental Health Forum, Magnifying the Mind, to address teen mental health. The hands-on forum highlighted the warning signs of mental illness; coping mechanisms to handle stress; where teens can seek help; brought awareness to addiction, and how to break the stigma of “mental illness.”  

The diverse panel of mental health experts included Chmaika P. Mills, PhD candidate, Clinical Psychology; Audrey Forka, CRNP a Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner; Pamela Little, CEO of Plate of X’pressions, LLC; Rossalyn Martinez, LCSWC and Jessica Prentice, LCSWC; Rosa Lindquist, yoga instructor; Ben Malecki, a youth advocate at Parkdale High School, and Tobacco Prevention Ambassadors from Parkdale HS.

Before beginning the program, YAs distributed a pre-forum survey to their peers, where they were asked, “How they would spot someone with a mental illness,” and “What characteristics they would possess?”  182 students responded, below are some of their responses:

  • “It’s not something that you can easily spot there are some people who seem or look perfectly fine which is the outside appearance but on the inside that’s where the problem is.”
  • “I don’t think there is a specific look for people with mental illness.  Some characteristics possible are physical impairments such as twisted mouths, slanted eyes, but people can look totally fine & still have mental illness.”
  • “There are many different signs for all the different illnesses.  Sometimes you may not even spot things at all some could be triggered by words, or sounds while in other’s you could never know.  They look like all of us.”

During the forum, students rotated through several mental health stations, spending 10-12 minutes listening to different professionals speak on their area of expertise and the resources that they provide.  Students learned how anxiety/stress and other mental health problems can negatively impact cognition and academic performance, and the stigma associated with receiving school accommodation.  They also learned basic relaxation techniques; that using art as therapy can relieve anxiety; yoga and meditation relieve stress; and learned ways to give their brain a break when preparing for tests.  

At the end of the forum, students were surveyed and asked if their knowledge about the subject increased as a result of participating in this activity?  Of the student who responded, 32% said yes; 10% said no.

“Yes” responses included: 

  • “I got to learn that those who need help have to speak out to get help because it may get worse if not treated over time.”
  • “Before the health fair, I initially referred mental illness to retardation, autism, etc. But now I know it extends to other things such as depression and others, this really broadened/ opened my mindset.”
  • “It has enlightened me that some people who have a mental disorder are mostly anxious or stressed; and also art and yoga helps to relieve stress.”

The Youth Ambassadors is a school-based college access with a service learning heart program. The program engages high school students in a variety of opportunities to become college and career ready lead meaningful service learning projects and build life skills through financial literacy. Learn more at

Monday, April 24, 2017


Our educators as afterschool professionals at Kenmoor Middle School. In Reach executive director, Toni Smith, third from left and program coordinator, Kayla Newsome, second from right.

In Reach, Inc. is joining with the National AfterSchool Association to celebrate the professionals that are at the heart of afterschool programs during "Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week" April 24-28, 2017.

There is no way we could operate without the dynamic educators who teach in our College and Career Ready 21st Century Community Learning Center or the superb principals who lead their school communities, Ms. Dorothy Clowers, William Paca Elementary School; Ms. Nancy Schickner, Carrollton Elementary School; and Ms. Maha Fadli, Kenmoor Middle School; and Dr. Lori Taylor at Parkdale High School for providing guidance for our Youth Ambassadors College Access Program. We appreciate you!

Carrollton Elementary School 
William Paca Elementary School
Kenmoor Middle 
Ernesa Bess
Alma Ardita
Annie Arches
Eboney Brisker
Melissa Bates
Mary Bass
Wanda Brooks
Denise Bishop-Edwards
Jeffrey Garcia
Gail Flowers 
Sharie Canty 
David Green 
Shemayne Hooks
Novilen Capadnyan
Beverly Neal
Alisa Kove
Ailyn Carillo 
Elizabeth Robinson
Tammy Little
Randi Coward
Gina Urban
Antonio Logan
Renee Mahomed-Washington
Lisa Smith-Parker
Claribel Mendoza
Aileen Montillano
Florence Moreno
Melanie Rich-Neal and Janet Rivera

We are joining the effort because we believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child. We encourage you to join us in thanking the afterschool professionals in your life. Here are some ideas on how you can show your appreciation:
  • Declare on social media: "I believe Afterschool professionals make a difference in the life of a child. #heartofafterschool"
  • Give a hand-written card from you and/or your child to the afterschool professional in your life.
  • Send an email to an afterschool professional's supervisor describing why that person is appreciated.
  • Make treats for the staff at your afterschool program. For more resources and information check out

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Scholarship Opportunity

In Reach is a community-based nominating organization to the Posse Foundation for their Leadership Scholarship. This scholarship is aimed at identifying outstanding high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential. 

In Reach can nominate 10 rising seniors (currently in the 11th grade) for a chance to receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to one of five partner colleges and universities —Bucknell University, Lafayette College, University of Rochester, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Sewanee: The University of the South.  

If you are the parent or guardian of a rising senior, or know any rising high school seniors in Prince George's County, MD that you believe should have an opportunity to become a “Posse” scholar, and they are not being nominated by their school, In Reach is here to help. Click here for In Reach nominating application materials. Contact Ms. Gross via or 301.357-8433 ext. 7005 for additional assistance.

Prospective nomination applications are being accepted until Friday, May 26, 2017. Don't delay!!

In the meantime, visit the Posse Foundation website at to learn more about this amazing opportunity!