Feelings ‘jumble up’

High school senior’s words: ‘There is always someone there to help you through your pain’

Artwork by Dakota Hensel Dakota Hensel’s picture will be on a billboard along Rt. 6 in Youngsville for a month for Mental Health Awareness Month.


They can be used as a weapon.

They can also be used to heal, which is what Youngsville High School senior Dakota Hensel is trying to convey in her art for Mental Health Awareness Month.

CORE (Choosing Openness Regarding Experiences) and the Warren County School District teamed up to offer a contest — prior to COVID-19 — to all high school students in Warren County. All students were encouraged to draw art to be chosen to be displayed on billboards in May. Students’ artwork was chosen by their peers in their schools and sent to Kari Swanson, founder of CORE, who worked with the students and Lamar Advertising to have the billboards made.

Hensel’s billboard will be up this week along Rt. 6 in Youngsville.

Artwork by Dakota Hensel Dakota Hensel’s artwork will be on a billboard along Rt. 6 in Youngsville for a month for Mental Health Awareness Month. Hensel is a senior at Youngsville High School.

“I feel so honored to have my message shared with so many others, and to have them know that it is okay to feel this way, and that you always have help by your side,” said Hensel. “Those words on that picture represent how everyone feels going through tough times, and that people keep all these feelings inside, and they feel like they have no one to talk to. I made this picture by going back in time, thinking of a point in my life where I was going through a lot, and I felt that there was nothing left. All those thoughts would jumble up inside my mind and I wouldn’t know how to fix it until I had people that were there for me, and through the picture I wanted to tell people that, although you have all these feelings, such as depression, anxiety, hopelessness, that there is always someone there to help you through your pain.”

There have been tremendous example of artwork and messages through pictures shared — some without words –on seven billboards through Warren County. CORE purchased the billboards to be displayed for one month each. Winners of the contest were Olivia Goss, Elizabeth Kays, and Hensel of Youngsville High School; Hope Hefright from Eisenhower High School; and, from Warren Area High School, Jori O’Neil, and Paige Rafalski.

Swanson described the contest’s intention as helping to “break the stigma of mental health.

“It is important to address and talk about these feelings,” she said.

What better way than with words.

“I think it was more the message that inspired me to do this,” said Hensel. “I just kind of started writing down these words, of how people feel on the inside, and that the feelings tend to jumble up and people just feel lost.”

Dakota said she does have some experience with people close to her helping her to get through something difficult.

And that has helped her plan her future.

“I plan to go to the New York Institute of Art and Design to pursue my dream as a personal stylist,” she said.


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