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Meet the first-ever cohort of Mental Health America’s Youth Policy Accelerator

Mental Health America's Youth Policy Accelerator

The Youth Policy Accelerator (YPA) is designed to amplify youth leadership and provide personal and professional advancement to youth leaders to ensure youth priorities and voices are centered in mental health policy on a national level. It brings together 10 young people with demonstrated policy and programmatic impact to participate in a two-month intensive virtual program.

Our inaugural 2023 cohort will focus on advancing access to youth peer support programs and services. The cohort is comprised of youth leaders with direct experience in peer support programs and mental health policy advocacy.

In this eight-week paid virtual training, members will learn from and build relationships with leaders in the field, develop their personal strengths in policy advocacy, co-create surveys and original research, and develop recommendations and a campaign to advance youth and young adult peer support. Members will attend weekly sessions covering topics including the history of peer support, policy research, government decision-makers, and storytelling.

Learn more about them below!

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Tianna Celis-Webster (she/her)

Puna, Hawaii

Tianna Celis-Webster, a 23-year-old working towards her psychology degree, was born and raised on the Island of Hawaii. She is a youth partner at EPIC 'Ohana Inc., a nonprofit organization serving Hawaii's at-risk youth and families. Using her own lived experiences, Celis-Webster helps youth in her community who are currently receiving services through systems such as the Departments of Health and Human Services. She works one-on-one with youth to improve their mental health as they navigate programs and work toward self-sufficiency. For the last two years, she has been co-chair of the Children's Mental Health Acceptance Campaign for Hawaii. She has played a key role in strategizing ways to encourage awareness and acceptance of mental health needs throughout the state. In 2022, Celis-Webster became a Hawaii-certified peer specialist and continues to make an impact in her community by advancing her peer support and leadership skills through continuous training and field work. She also serves on the East Hawai'i HI H.O.P.E.S Youth Leadership Board, where its mission is to educate, advocate, and collaborate for improvements in the foster care system in hopes that it creates better outcomes for foster youth.

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Zofia Trexler (they/she)

Fresno, California

Zofia Trexler is a 20-year-old advocate and community organizer from Fresno, California. They work as a peer self advocacy trainer for Disability Rights California, where they specialize in educating transitional-age youth. A community college transfer, Trexler is entering her senior year at Stanford University, where they are pursuing an education centered around disability justice with a focus on abolishing carceral systems within education. They are passionate about peer advocacy at the intersection of mental health disability and the abolition of policing and confinement in all of its forms. As a member of the YPA, they hope to ground conversations about mental health in disability justice and the goal of building a world driven by community and collective care.

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Saiarchana Darira (she/her)

New York, New York

Saiarchana Darira is a graduate student at Columbia University studying for a master of public administration in environmental science and policy. She serves on the U.S. Youth Advisory Council to the United Nations Ocean Decade, where she works to get more youth represented and heard within the UN. Additionally, she is a UN climate negotiations intern with the U.S. Department of State, where she works to ensure that high-level international climate policy negotiations are easier to understand by the public. Darira is deeply passionate about the intersection between mental health and the climate crisis and has done research in the past on ways environmentalists can navigate ecological grief and climate anxiety. She is a nationally trained meditation facilitator and leads meditations on eco-anxiety.

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Malachi King (he/him)

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Malachi King is a licensed substance abuse associate and certified peer support worker in New Mexico. He is studying social work at Western New Mexico University. King is also a clinician at a crisis center and has worked in the field of mobile crisis services. As a clinician, he enjoys empowering those he works with to believe in themselves and become aware of their inner strengths. King is passionate about helping people achieve mental wellness and developing solutions that integrate seamlessly into real life.

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Isabel Ohakamma (she/her)

Houston, Texas

Isabel Ohakamma is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia (UVA) pursuing a double major in psychology and youth and social innovation with a minor in public policy and leadership. She is a passionate advocate for equitable access to mental health resources for adolescents, especially those who belong to marginalized groups. She began her advocacy in high school by creating a club that provided mental health resources for youth of color. This led to her being recognized as a 2021 Bezos Scholar due to her activism within her community. For the past two years, Ohakamma has served on the Youth National Scientific Council on Adolescence (YNSCA) at UCLA, where she was able to work with scientists and researchers to address the national issue of adolescent mental well-being. She is a youth advisor at Hopelab, a mental health technology innovation company that uses software and product design to break down barriers that hinder young people from accessing mental health resources. In addition to YNSCA and Hopelab, she has also worked with various organizations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Aspen Institute, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and UVA’s Youth Nex.

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Dionne Regis (she/her)

Denton, Texas

Dionne Regis is a counseling psychology Ph.D. at University of North Texas, where she dedicates her research and future clinical skills to uplifting and empowering the voices of marginalized populations in an effort to reduce mental health disparities among ethnic/racial minorities in the United States. Identifying as an Afro-Caribbean Black woman, first-generation college student, and American growing up in a lower-working class immigrant household, Regis embraces her varying levels of intersectionality by working with her peers and mentoring youth to inspire future generations to continue destigmatizing and enhancing education and practices surrounding mental health. During university, Regis was a peer advisor at the University of Virginia Office of African American Affairs for two years, where she worked with first-year students of color to build relational, coping, self-esteem and self-confidence, and academic skills as they transitioned from adolescence to young adulthood. While studying for her master’s at Columbia University, Regis became involved with policy and organized movements. She continued her youth work by attending Girls Speak Out: Minding the Girls’ Rights Gap on the International Day of the Girl 10th anniversary session at the United Nations. She wrote a journal article for the International Association of Applied Psychology Journal-Bulletin to express the importance of including the voices of youth who want to challenge and change the current limitations of the world we live in. She held a panel at the 67th session of The Commission on the Status of Women NGO/NY Forum called Building Resilience and Mental Health in Caribbean Girls and Women, an ode to her Caribbean background and the current surge in violence and silencing against women and girls. Regis hopes that her future career as a psychologist can impact education, media, and policy.

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Aimee Resnick (she/her)

Centennial, Colorado

Aimee Resnick is a second-year student studying social policy and art history at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Originally from Centennial, Colorado, Resnick eventually plans to return to her home state and run for the state legislature. She is the past chair of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council and has successfully helped write and pass two legislative acts regarding upstream mental health promotion: HB22-1052 and SB23-014. Resnick is extremely passionate about ending weight-based discrimination and promoting health at any size. In her free time, she loves to bake, sew, and press flowers.

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Trace Terrell (he/they)

La Pine, Oregon

Trace Terrell is a mental health activist, peer health educator, and strategic storyteller with a background in adolescent crisis intervention, peer-to-peer support, and youth policy. From middle to early high school, he struggled with suicidal ideation, depression, and other mental health challenges, further complicated by his sexual orientation and rural community. At 14, he volunteered on a youth crisis line, which helped him realize that his mental health challenges were a microcosm of public health issues that affected hundreds of thousands of young people across the world. Since then, he has testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, reviewed mental health policies affecting transition-age youth from across the country, and advised several national campaigns, such as A.S.K., MTV, and Active Minds’ new “stop, drop, and roll” for mental health and peer support. A sophomore at The Johns Hopkins University, he studies public health and writing seminars and hopes to pursue a career in health policy and management. He also researches at the Bloomberg School of Public Health the implementation of a novel therapeutic framework and software meant to make nonclinical mental health care more scalable, cost-effective, and timely across the world.

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Brandon Bond (he/him)

Belleville, Michigan

Brandon Bond, MPH, LLMSW, CHES (he/him) is responsible for assessing the needs of students, advocating for systemic-level changes, and implementing solutions that produce health-promoting environments in his role as a Mental Health & Well-Being Student Advocate Consultant at the University of Michigan. His research, project, and advocacy foci range from public mental health and collective healing to DEI/culturally tailored integrative health interventions and understanding the role cultural conceptions of mental health have on one’s health-seeking behavior. Brandon has been a receiver, provider, and now developer of peer support services and spaces. In addition to his work, Brandon is also an appointed Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Ann Arbor and serves on the Board of Directors for Garrett's Space, a young adult suicide prevention and peer support non-profit.

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Edward Sun (he/him)

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Edward Sun is embarking on his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School. He has been accepted into the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences & Management, a program that combines the power of bioscience and business education. Among a group of approximately 24 students selected each year, Sun will concentrate on biology and finance. Having a lifelong commitment to service, he has created several mental health initiatives. As the past president of the Fort Wayne Mayor's Youth Engagement Council, Sun represented over 17,500 high school students. Last year, he spearheaded a mental health symposium in his city, where he fundraised over $12,000 and had over 200 students from 20 high schools attend. He also serves as the secretary of the Indiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council, where he is a strong advocate for youth mental health. Sun is immensely eager to be part of Mental Health America’s first-ever Youth Policy Accelerator.