Billboards designed by our high schoolers raising mental health awareness in county

Photo submitted to Times Observer Hope Hefright is one of six students whose artwork (above) will be displayed in efforts to raise awareness for Mental Health Month.

CORE (Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences) teamed up with the Warren County School District offering a contest to all ninth through twelfth grade students in Warren County schools.

All the participating students were encouraged to create artwork to be chosen for display on billboards throughout Warren County to raise awareness for Mental Health Month coming up in May.

The contest ended just before the state-mandated school closures due to COVID-19.

The winning artwork was chosen by the students’ peers in their schools and sent to Kari Swanson, founder of CORE, who collaborated with the students and Lamar Advertising to bring the billboards to life.

Seven billboards were purchased to display each students’ artwork for a month.

Hope Hefright, a senior from Eisenhower High School, will be the first student whose artwork will be displayed starting April 13. Her work will be displayed on Hatch Run Road by the Aldi’s in North Warren until May 10th.

Other winners included three students from Youngsville High School (Olivia Goss, Dakota Hensel and Elizabeth Kays), and two students from Warren Area High School (Jori O’Neil and Paige Rafalski).

Unfortunately, there were no participants from Sheffield High School so the seventh piece was chosen by the CORE — Lamar Advertising team.

All the artwork will be displayed with the artist’s name and school.

Swanson is excited to have the billboards reflect the view of high school students and hopes they will be helpful to those that struggle with mental health issues.

“I want people to recognize that it is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of and that there is help out there,” Swanson said.

According to Swanson, it is a trying time currently with COVID-19 and people who haven’t experienced anxiety or depression may be experiencing such things for the first time.

“It is okay to reach out and talk about how you are feeling,” said Swanson, “Those that do have anxiety and/or depression diagnoses may be experiencing symptoms at a higher degree and, again, it is important to address and talk about these feelings.”

Swanson along with her organization, CORE, hopes that the billboards provide hope and continue to break the stigma on mental health.


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