March 11, 2020
USCHS junior honored with youth leadership award
An Upper St. Clair High School junior was recently selected as the first recipient of the Youth Mental Health Leadership Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania. Elle Snyder was honored during the organization’s statewide Child & Adolescent Mental Health Conference on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott.
Elle is a founding member of the Student Wellness Steering Committee, a group that works to raise mental health awareness at the high school. She is also a member of the varsity girls’ soccer team, which has also devoted significant time to the issue of mental health awareness.
“When we were planning this conference, we wanted to include a voice that we thought had been missing – the perspective of a young person,” said Debbie Ference, COO of NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania. “We decided to honor Elle with our first youth advocate award because young people like her are leading the way in making it acceptable to talk about mental health.”
In addition to receiving the Youth Mental Health Leadership Award, Elle served as a presenter for the conference. In her presentation, “Creating a Movement: Why Young Voices Matter,” she articulated why youth voices are critical in starting the conversation among their peers. Elle highlighted the progress that she and other youth advocates are making to encourage fellow students achieve mental and physical wellness.
“Elle has been a committed ally and advocate for people that are living with mental illness,” Dr. Dan Beck, Upper St. Clair High School assistant principal, said. “She has helped increase awareness among her peers and actively engaged adults in the conversation as they support adolescents. Whether it be coaches, teachers or administrators, her approach is consistent and unwavering – she just wants to start the conversation.”
By having adults recognize that mental health is something we all need to be mindful of, Elle has begun to influence systemic change.
“Most recently, she worked alongside a core group of students and our Streams Elementary School in their Children for Children fundraising efforts. All attendees that night saw that there are simple strategies and tools that can be considered that help engage even our youngest of community members in the context of mental health,” Dr. Beck said. “The goal is simple: expose our students to other children in the world who are in need, and show our students how they, themselves, can make a difference.”
The theme for the fourth annual Child & Adolescent Mental Health Conference was “Resilient Youth: Strategies to Overcome Adversity.” The conference is one of the only events in the region specializing in youth mental health. Nearly 400 people from all over the country attended the conference to learn about the newest research and best practices to assist and advance the mental health needs of young children, adolescents, and young adults.