Activating awareness on campus

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By Dora Yrigoyen / Managing Editor

Activate awareness (Allison perez / Asst. Photo Editor )

By Dora Yrigoyen / Managing Editor

To all who knew her, Alyssa Rayne McCroskey was a beautiful, intelligent young lady who was full of life and truly wanted to make a change in the world.

In fact, “Aly’s” goal in life was to make a difference in the lives of other people.

Unfortunately, it was a goal and dream which was cut short on June 29, 2008 when Alyssa took her life.

Paula McCroskey, grandmother of Aly and former Riverside City College Dean of Disabled Student Services and Dean of counseling, recalls the gut-wrenching pain she experienced when dealing with the loss of her granddaughter.

However, McCroskey in turn wanted to take the tragedy of Aly’s death and turn it into hope.

“I wanted to make sure her life made a difference and that nobody had to suffer in life like she did,” McCroskey said.

It was then that McCroskey founded the Alyssa “Aly” Rayne McCroskey Memorial Endowed Scholarship, which aide’s students who struggle with disabilities.

McCroskey also helped establish the Riverside City College club, Active Minds, which brings awareness to Mental Health.

The club teamed up with the Gender and Sexualities Awareness Club, on Sept. 15 to put together an event that “ends the silence” on mental health.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students,” said Doug Figueroa, Active Minds president. “Sometimes we feel alone and that’s not the truth.”

Figueroa said the tragedy of suicide hits the heart and hits the mind and he invites RCC students to get involved and help change the conversation about mental health.

“We want to get out that it’s okay to talk about mental health, to stand up and say I’m bi-polar and I struggle with depression but I don’t let it consume me,” he said.

With 1,100 students dying each year by suicide, colleges all across the nation are fighting back and speaking up about mental health.

The Active Minds cause first started at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001, when then student Alison Malmon’s sibling committed suicide.

Since then an outcry across campuses to bring awareness to mental health began.

Now 353 campuses nationwide support the cause Active Minds, including RCC; which was one of the first community college’s to participate.

Figueroa said that fifty percent of college students experience depression, but most won’t say anything.

That is one of the reasons why his club, Active Minds, donated a $250 check to Aly’s foundation to support bringing awareness of mental health and to show fellow students, its okay to talk about mental health.

Even fellow RCC club, Gender and Sexualities Awareness, set up a booth at the event to help support the cause.

“Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender students (LGBT) are 40 percent more likely to commit suicide because of discrimination,” said club President Stephanie Drago.

Drago said her club felt honored to participate in the event because they know what it’s like to be discriminated for who they are and they want to help put a stop to discrimination against LGBT students and students with disorders.

It is those same stigmas that Paula McCroskey hopes to put an end to with the help of Aly’s Foundation and Active Minds.

“She’s not here but we carried her dream out through Active Minds,” McCroskey said.

A dream many students on campus believe is just as important.

“I know suicide is an important issue, especially in the lives of students,” said RCC student Dustin Boyer.

Boyer, along with many other RCC students volunteered their time holding up signs to help bring awareness to the campus.

Jazmin Martinez who was one of those students said the cause is important because of the recent suicides due to pressure students face today.

“I was bullied when I was younger and I want to make sure I do something to stop it,” Martinez said.

Students interested in helping to promote mental health awareness can participate by joining Active Minds or attending one of their Suicide Prevention and Awareness workshops.

The first of a series of workshops is scheduled to begin Sept. 27 in the A.G. Paul Quadrangle, room 129 from 12:50-1:50 p.m.

Active Minds is also hosting a Mental Health Awareness Day on Oct. 20 and students have the option of helping out.

An “opportunity drawing” will be held, with prizes such as an iPad 2, nooks, iPods, a laptop and much more; tickets for the drawing cost $5.

Club member Jennifer Reyes said it is a day for students to come and “de-stress.”

To find out more on how to get involved, students can attend club meetings every Tuesday and Thursday in Quadrangle, room 116 from 12:50-1:50 p.m.

End the silence (allison perez / Asst. Photo Editor)

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