Dart Scholar addresses mental health through youth programme

By Cristin Jackson

Becoming a Dart High School Scholar in 2016 changed me as a person as it gave me the opportunity to give back to the community. Through my experiences as a Dart High School Scholar, I was able to develop a platform to advocate for a subject that I am most passionate about — mental health.

During my time at Cayman International School, I was inducted into the National Honor Society, which is an internationally recognised organisation that focuses on building character through leadership and service. To qualify for the Cayman International School chapter of the National Honor Society, students must have at least a 3.6 grade point average, participate in a minimum of two extracurricular activities and regularly contribute in community service projects.

Joining the National Honor Society gave me the chance to create a new service project dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues in our community. Through a partnership with the Alex Panton Foundation, I led a team of National Honor Society students to create the Youth Ambassadors Programme.

This programme provides support to teens in a way that builds resilience and inspires hope. It also functions as an advocacy group where ambassadors can meet with local officials to help shape the future of the Cayman Islands. Young adults can join by earning three badges that represent knowledge, compassion and open-mindedness. To receive these badges, participants complete activities designed to provoke discussion about current issues in the community. Students from schools across the island interact with each other to have open and honest conversations that help decrease the stigma surrounding mental health.

In addition to raising awareness, the Youth Ambassadors Programme also advocates for school curriculums to include information about mental health by running local campaigns. Its first campaign, “Don’t Stay Silent,” aimed to inspire individuals to start a conversation about the prevalence of bullying, substance abuse, depression, domestic violence and anxiety in our community. The campaign, which we shared at a mental health symposium and on social media, included anonymously submitted stories from students who have dealt with these issues.

During the pandemic lockdown earlier this year, we hosted presentations called “COVID Conversations” that addressed the stress and fear for the future caused by COVID-19. These presentations were recorded and are available for viewing on the Youth Ambassadors Programme's social media channels. We also spoke at panels in Cayman Brac to provide insight about mental health.

The Youth Ambassadors Programme celebrated its one-year anniversary on 30 August and the programme is now continuing with other students at the helm. I still serve as an advisor when needed, and I am happy to see others take the lead to help young people navigate mental health issues and advocate for a brighter future.

For more information or to get involved, follow the Youth Ambassadors Programme on Instagram or Facebook or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of the Camana Bay Times.