■ Alex Cass / HUSD
One staff member at the Tahquitz High School campus works hard to empower and support students. Jessica Oakes, Tahquitz marriage and family therapist, created the “It’s OK to…” campaign to let students know they have permission to be human. The campaign allows students to write on Post-it notes to tell students it’s OK to cry, be yourself, etc. She created the campaign to show students that they weren’t alone in the way they were thinking or feeling.
Oakes said she has received more than 200 responses from students and staff demonstrating that everyone feels upset or down, but encouraging everyone that it’s OK to feel that way. Oakes created a wall in the office and is pleased to find someone reading the responses each time she walks by.
“I see students gathering around the wall and reading the responses and having conversations with people about how they can relate,” said Oakes. She said she has received a lot of positive feedback from students and staff alike, saying the wall has been a motivating factor for them.
Oakes explained that she hopes the campaign has made students more aware that they aren’t alone and given them confidence to talk about their experiences and realize that many people around them can relate. The original goal was to help with bullying, and after creating the campaign she realized how tolerant and accepting students were of each other.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” said Oakes.
Oakes said this campaign was to build on the success of the Mental Health Fair that was held on campus in December. She is working to create an event every month to help increase awareness of mental health and where students can find community resources. The second Mental Health Fair was held at Tahquitz on March 3.
“The greatest thing that came from this campaign is that a few students who were inspired by the wall created a video with their own wall of ‘It’s OK to…’ stickers,” said Oakes. She said what started off as a wacky idea in her head has become an indicator of student’s expression.