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Students Focus On Awareness
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Armando Rivera, left, played Diego, while in the middle, Hannah, played by Denver Vaughn, and Daniela, played by Gina Hughes were demonstrating how siblings can be better at things like playing music or getting better grades but they all have things they are good at. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Students from Riverbank Language Academy and Cardozo Middle School’s After School Program were in for a treat on Tuesday, Sept. 30 when they received a performance called “Walk In Our Shoes” which taught the youngsters about mental health and wellness.

The stage was set up and there were four characters, Hannah (Denver Vaughn), Ethan (Brennan Villados), Daniela (Gina Hughes), and Diego (Armando Rivera) that each had a mental health situation that they covered.

Hannah was the first to perform showing students what bi-polar could possibly look like and explaining to them that it is okay to ask for help.

Ethan was the next performer that discussed ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in a skit with a skateboard and how when he falls that it is important to pick yourself back up.

Daniela performed a skit for the students that had to do with an eating disorder. She described her feelings and what she was going through.

Diego had a different mental health issue and discussed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) explaining to the kids that this does not only affect people in the military. However, the scene was involving a nephew and an uncle that had returned from a military tour with PTSD.

The performers sang, used props, shared some laughter and they received applause at the end of the performance. The students in the audience sat quietly and sometimes seemed to recognize some of the situations the performers were describing within themselves, pointing and telling their buddies.

At the end of the performance the actors held a question and answer forum to help the youngsters understand the performances.

Several students asked questions or made statements about what they liked best in the presentation.

“The website and school-based performance repeat the idea of walking in someone else’s shoes – literally asking children to think about life’s situations from another person’s point of view before making a judgment,” stated Program Grant Manager, Keenon Krick.

Krick organized the event to promote awareness for youth between fourth and eighth grades involving mental health.

“This program is funded by the California Mental Health Services Agency through the voter approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63),” said Krick. “I did get some feedback from staff and they said the students loved the performance and felt it was very engaging, and many of them felt like there was a piece of the performance they could relate with.”

In a release provided by Krick it stated, ‘the interaction between each character, whether diagnosed with a mental illness or not, helps to illustrate the harmful effects of stigma and provides children with the knowledge and tools to battle misconceptions about mental illness.’

The goal of the performance, Krick noted, is to fill key gaps in knowledge (which can lead to stigmatizing beliefs) that were identified in a benchmark survey of more than 600 middle school aged students.

Krick also spoke to the students and informed them that the first person they should talk to if they have concerns about mental health issues is their teachers or parents. There is also a district psychologist that is available to students as well as Krick, who let them know that he is also available.

“Overall, I thought it went very well, the students were well behaved and appeared interested in the performance,” added Krick. “The performance deals with some pretty heavy subject matter, but the performers did an excellent job putting an upbeat spin in each of the scenes.

“It was great that they took about 15 minutes to provide a debriefing with the students and allow them opportunities for questions.”

For more information on the “Walk In Our Shoes” performance, visit the website at