HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4)– Two students at ThunderRidge High School are working together to fight the stigma surrounding mental health. What began as a simple idea of starting the conversation has now turned into something much bigger.
“The urgency really hit me after I lost my friend,” explained Miya Hayden, a senior at ThunderRidge. “I watched my immediate friend group crumble after that.”
After losing a friend to suicide and their principal to cancer, Hayden and her friend Melanie Zhou, wanted to create change.
“It became really important to us to emphasize mental health because there was a lack of resources where students and adults could get the help they needed,” Zhou said.
The two created a nonprofit called Oasis Mental Health. By selling T-shirts and other fashion items, they raise money for mental health resources at their school. Their biggest accomplishment is a physical oasis they built right inside their school.
“I’s easy to feel lost or undervalued in a school this big,” Hayden explained. “The Oasis Room is where kids feel they have a place within the school.”
It’s a safe area for kids to talk about their mental health with peers or professionals, and discover new ways to cope with whatever they’re going through.
“Whether it’s coloring, listening to music, talking to a peer counselor, or whatever helps them,” Hayden said. “It’s teaching them so that when they’re not at school, they don’t have a moment where they are lost or confused.”
Through the Junior Achievement program, the girls recently competed in the Denver Startup Week pitch competition. The high schoolers pitched their business model against experienced entrepreneurs.
“There were people with 30 or 40 years of marketing experience,” Zhou laughed. “We were the youngest, but we just wanted to learn from the experience and get practice.”
The pair advanced through each round, all the way to the finals. That’s where they were surprised to learn they won the entire competition. That win meant $100,000 will to go towards Oasis Mental Health.
“It was just amazing and shows that people really do think mental health is important,” Hayden said.
The girls say with the package of cash, products and services, they plan to open an Oasis Room in every Douglas County school. They also hope to spread the word of Oasis Mental Health with a website, and one day a board of directors.