BY Louise kim
When it comes to shared hardship among students, sometimes the most powerful act one can do is share their story. Junior Amelia Barrios along with her brother, Nathan Barrios, recently created a foundation called the Barrios Foundation in the hopes of raising awareness on a serious struggle many students deal with: mental illness. Through her own story of dealing with mental illness and her strong desire to help others in need, Barrios is on a mission to educate students and staff in the Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) and show students they are not alone.
Barrios’ story behind this foundation started during her sophomore year. Both her mother and grandmother had dealt with some form of mental illness, and based on a genetic factor Barrios had a greater chance of developing a mental illness as well. During her first two years of high school, Barrios struggled with depression and even attempted suicide at one point, but at the end of her sophomore year she made a decision not only for herself but also for those around her. She decided to start a nonprofit organization. Her desire to help others was inspired by her father who suggested she share her story and make a difference. “You know as a high school student you think like ‘Maybe this is too big for me. Maybe I can’t do this,’” Barrios said, expressing her initial doubts, “but then I was like, ‘You can help people.’” Barrios decided to take on this project with her younger brother’s help, and after weeks of planning over the summer the Barrios Foundation was born. “I remember finally finishing up the website and then launching it and announcing it and it was just the most amazing feeling to have all the support from people.”
According to Amelia and Nathan Barrios, “[the] purpose of the organization is to raise awareness of mental illness within adolescents. . .and to raise that awareness within school systems.” Currently, the Barrios Foundation aims to get schools in the Temecula Valley involved in her organization’s movement. They decided to target their respective schools as their primary audience, with Amelia raising awareness for mental illness on campus and Nathan spreading the foundation’s message at Bella Vista Middle School and running the foundation’s webpage. Barrios took the foundation’s first big step when she presented her nonprofit organization in front of her Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class. She then presented it to teachers and staff members along with social worker Mrs. Elyce Mandich on September 14 during a Staff Development Day. “It was definitely interesting to see so many of the staff really engaged,” said Barrios. The personal story she shared affected many staff members and even brought some to tears.
The Barrios Foundation is the start of something big, and Amelia and Nathan Barrios are excited about helping their fellow classmates. Barrios wishes for students on campus to get involved with their nonprofit organization. She plans on offering community service hours to those who get involved with the Barrios Foundation. “I want people to know about the foundation and what we’re doing because it’s so important that mental illness doesn’t stay taboo.”