Ambassador Girl Scout, Girl Scout Tropical Florida
Miami Lakes, Florida
After a student from her school took his own life the summer after his graduation, 17-year old Kaitlyn Ruano knew she had to do something to help teenagers struggling with mental health issues. That tragedy combined with the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in February 2018 inspired the Girl Scout Ambassador to found a mental health awareness club at her high school.
Kaitlyn’s Gold Award Project
Aptly called “Open Minds, Open Arms,” Kaitlin’s club helped students find a safe haven at school where they could express their innermost feelings and find the help they needed.
“Many of my friends, as well as myself, had struggled with mental health over the years, and all agreed there were not enough outlets for dealing with these struggles,” Kaitlin said, explaining that the club hosts monthly campaigns to combat the stigma surrounding mental health.
As part of her Gold Award Project, Kaitlin also founded a mental health awareness week at her school and hosted a symposium where she and other peers shared their personal struggles with mental health.
Creating A Movement
Kaitlyn’s actions inspired the Miami-Dade County Public School District to dedicate a stipend for health resources at each school in the district. “The district is also encouraging schools across the district to form clubs dedicated to mental health awareness, following a similar format to my Open Minds, Open Arms club,” she said proudly.
Motivating and helping others has given Kaitlyn an “overwhelming sense of pride,” she confesses. “I learned a lot about myself in the process of completing my project. The huge positive response from students and parents in attendance at the Mental Health Symposium allowed me to understand the true value of the club and event I had put together.”
The organizational and communication skills she gained along the way will be helpful tools, no doubt, as Kaitlyn’s plans for the future include studying psychology in college.