How one nineteen-year-old girl ran for local office, transforming the way her community considers high school mental health
by Maggie Augustine
High-schoolers are stressed out.
That’s the observation Nineteen year old Vietnamese-American Lily Q. Lam made during her turn from teenage to adult life and the subsequent reflection and attempt towards self-care that usually follows suit. From freshman to senior year, she observed that high-schoolers were becoming greatly desensitized towards stress, exhaustion, sadness, and even failure or achievement. It's almost like you're on a rollercoaster, but you’ve been on the rollercoaster 435 times and the twists and turns are make you scream less and less, and people are constantly reminding you to enjoy the rollercoaster, but the rollercoaster is becoming just a pointless journey to the end of the park.
For many, high-school is simply a quest to graduate successfully,and you don’t care if you forget to eat, or if you forget to sleep, or if you forget to tell your parents goodbye in the morning, because in the end, you only have one goal. Many young people fail to recognize how unhealthy, damaging, and borderline traumatizing this can be. Lily Lam used to be one of those people. Before her graduation in 2017, she lived the desensitized high-school life. Only when Lily was able to finally leave high-school did she realize how unhealthy that lifestyle was. She'd always been an outspoken student advocating for change in her small community. A year after she had left school, teachers still remembered her strong personality for leadership and positive change. The Fort Bend ISD school board was having an election for new trustee’s- and they told her she should run.
It did not take long for Lily to begin her historic campaign. Lily realized that the education system changes often swiftly and suddenly, and the longer you’ve been out of school, the less you can really understand the issues occurring. She wanted the district to directly understand these new changes and issues, and have the ability to implement genuine and thoughtful changes. Lily wanted to end the age of high-school ‘self-destruction’. Though she ended up losing the election by only 250 votes, she won a much more fruitful outcome. She truly became an advocate. Lily became a grass-roots revolutionary for change towards mental health stigma, especially in POC community, and started a lifelong journey towards change and acceptance of self-care that starts in school and never ends.
Now, Lily is determined to get high-schoolers and other young adults out of the desensitization funk and to commit little acts of self-care in the name of daily mental health, through city-wide initiatives and beginning conversations with counselors and school representative, and hopes to soon go state or nation-wide. Lilly isn’t too sure what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Right now, political advocacy, occupational therapy, getting a doctorate, or become a national organizer for change are some options she's looking at, but I believe she will change the world--one person at a time.