Student overcomes stigma to get the support he needs
June 27, 2022
Israel Tavera
Grade: 12 School: Public Service Community School District: Los Angeles Unified School District ACSA region: 16 Israel Tavera grew up in a violent neighborhood filled with gangs, crime and drugs. That alone would be enough to create feelings of anxiety. But when a global pandemic was added to the mix, Israel realized he needed support. Overcoming the stigma that surrounds mental health, he turned to the counselors at Public Service Community School in Los Angeles Unified School District.
With their guidance, Israel was able to take advantage of the resources available to him and changed his trajectory in life. Now, he is paying it forward by helping others who are struggling with their own mental health battles.
What does it mean to you to win the ACSA Every Student Succeeding award? It means a lot, actually, because people in this community don’t really get much support. And never once did I think I would be a person to get that type of support. So, you know, I kind of do realize that the things I went through, weren’t, you know, just for nothing. Now, that I’m actually being celebrated for it, and actually getting some type of support for it, it means a lot.
You grew up in what you have described as a tough community. How much did that shape who you are today? In my community, it’s almost like a given fact of life that it’s going to be hard. And not hard in the way like, “Oh, life is just sad.” No, life is difficult. It can be violent. It can be very unforgiving. You kind of grow up in this community with like, just a basic level anxiety. It’s really weird. Because growing up, you just kind of know, things are dangerous around your area. There’s a lot of gangs in this neighborhood. But it is also definitely a place where a lot of strong people come from. And I’m kind of proud to say I’m one of those people now.
What role did your school community play for you finding your success and helping you overcome that adversity? Growing up in the school that I went to, that support was kind of always there. And maybe it’s just the mindset everyone has here. Mental health resources were kind of stigmatized or seen as like, “If you reach out, you’re just weak mentally.” But I kind of argue the point that it takes a pretty strong person to reach out for help. So those resources were always there. In elementary school, they were there. In middle school, they were there. But it took me up until high school to really just, you know, reluctantly accept that help. And it was one of the best decisions I made.
For students who are dealing with challenges, especially some form of anxiety or depression, what would your advice be to them? I wouldn’t say I overcame everything. I still go through these very difficult phases in my life. I feel like some people kind of look up to me. And it’s a weird feeling because I still see them as like I’m one of them. So, I don’t really feel like I’m at a point to really give advice. But I have given advice to people. And it’s not really about how difficult things get because it’s always going be difficult. It’s always about how you get up from those things. If you fall 1,000 times, you better get up 1,001 times.
Israel Tavera came from a rough neighborhood, where he says anxiety is the baseline.
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