Eureka Springs student helps spread mental health awareness

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

By Haley Schichtl

Eureka Springs School District students are aware of the importance of mental health, and eighth-grader Leah Hollinger knows how to show it.

Hollinger won a district-wide mental health poster contest put on by the mental health professionals at Arkansas AWARE, and will go on to compete at the state level.

Shelby Kuchenbecker, who teaches kindergarten through eighth grade art, said Hollinger will go against the best posters from four other schools, and if hers is chosen as the best, copies of it will go up in every school.

“At the Mega Summit in Hot Springs, they will choose from Marvell, Texarkana, Valley Springs, Ozark Mountain and Eureka Springs, one winner,” Kuchenbecker said. “The winner will get a $50 gift card for art supplies.”

Hollinger said her favorite thing to draw is people. Her poster depicts a young girl thinking about seeking help, but not saying anything.

“I didn’t really know what I was going to do,” she said. “I was just feeling like it was my style.”

She said she has struggled with mental health herself, and felt inspired to tell others they should stop holding it in and just talk to someone. She thought adding the stop signs were a good way to catch people’s attention.

“They wanted to see something that looked like a poster — easy to read, strong graphics,” Kuchenbecker said. “Hers is kind of relatable — she’s wearing an American Eagle shirt — it just seems like something that middle schoolers would see and relate to.”

Kuchenbecker said she made the contest optional to her seventh- and eighth-graders, who were working on another project, and ended up having eight of them choose to submit posters.

“I was able to teach it as a lesson about what mental health is to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders,” Kuchenbecker said. “I’m huge into trying to teach kids at a young age to have compassion and empathy for others, because life is tough and everybody has their inner struggles.”

Hollinger said she is glad the school has AWARE and that people in the school feel comfortable talking about mental health.

“It’s nice to hear someone talk about it. A lot of schools don’t do stuff like that,” Hollinger said. “I know somebody’s always going to be there for me and I know that I can tell people.”

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