Project 11 inspires self-acceptanceJuly 26, 2018 3:55 pm
Grade 9 student Herlinda is thankful that her middle school teachers chose to incorporate the Project 11 curriculum into their teaching practice. “Mental health is something to take note on when talking about health as a whole,” she explains. “The first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of health is the physical side. The majority of people often think of health as exercising and healthy foods because that’s all they have learned.”
Herlinda recalls the anxiety she faced as a young student entering middle school and the relief she felt when discovering that her teachers encouraged an open dialogue in the classroom, including discussions about mental wellbeing. Herlinda notes that as she worked through the Project 11 curriculum alongside her teachers and classmates, she noticed positive changes within herself. “Rather than weigh my self-esteem down, I learned to lift it with passion and the support of a loving community. My teachers, family and friends all notice that I’m very different now compared to back then.”
Herlinda explains that the skills learned through Project 11 have helped to carry her through daily challenges as a high school student. “Being a Project 11 student for 3 years brought a lot more awareness to my mental health. We all face stress and I’ve learned different coping strategies that come in handy when things do become stressful.”
Herlinda shares a poem that she wrote in Middle School, describing feelings of anxiety and insecurity that she felt from a young age.
I was always connected and aware of my surroundings,
I knew who I was.
The flow of life wasn’t always steady though, and hurricanes overthrew. The density of the waves
clashed constantly, having nowhere to hide.
I was falling apart.
Those waves of feelings were consistent though, the feeling of un knowing deformed the unstable heights. My highs flatlined as everything slipped away, descending downward.
That was how it was supposed to be, right?
That was normal.
I knew that crying showed signs of weakness, hence why I tried to avoid it. I had always been taught to toughen up. To be strong but never knew how to do it in the real way.
With no sense of what was going on, I looked around with blank stares, hoping that an answer would appear.
I sat and waited.
Attempted to branch outwards towards aid.
When I reached, I felt the warmth of the familiar faces, yet I didn’t want them to see me distorted
Not like that.
I covered up my insecurities, with layers of curtains.
How would I explain when they would find me buried beneath the fabric?
I curled in towards the darkness. My own roots hugged me closer together.
It was only me left.
I was all I had.
Herlinda feels proud about the way she has grown, being able to accept the love and support of others and loving herself for who she is. “I accept who I am and am proud for what I stand for. I have learned to love my own skin.” She credits her teachers and the Project 11 lessons for helping her along this journey that has led her to where she is today. “Project 11 not only brought my attention to mental health and wellness, it has also taught me more about the thoughts I am dealing with and how to work through them. As a teenager, our emotions change quite frequently. Our feelings go beyond the stereotypical emotions portrayed simply as sadness, joy, anger and so on. Our daily feelings become more complex, including anxious thoughts and feelings of stress. The Project 11 lessons opened up conversations about situations that were relatable and they resonate with my classmates and I, still to this day.”