Oasis Mental Health

ThunderRidge students create non-profit group focused on mental health
Posted on 10/08/2018
Oasis Mental Health founders


Mental health is not exactly a “break the ice” conversation starter. Three juniors at ThunderRidge High School are trying to destigmatize the conversation.

The 2017-18 school year was a difficult one for many at ThunderRidge. Their Principal Chris Tabeling died after a long bout with cancer. It was a loss felt by the entire school community. It was not, however, the only loss felt by the students. Junior Melanie Zhou’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Junior Mia Hayden lost a friend to suicide. Junior Rohan Nipunge felt a different, more common kind of stress - the daily grind of high school academics and social expectations.

The three juniors met as Freshmen and grew close through their affiliation with the DECA club. It was there that they decided to open up the mental health conversation by creating Oasis Mental Health. It’s a non-profit organization whose initial campaign centers on fashion. They raise money through T-shirts, socks, popsockets, and other trendy merchandise sales. Half of their proceeds are reinvested into mental health resources at the district level. The other half goes into sustaining the organization.

They presented their business model at the September 18, 2018 DCSD Board of Education meeting. Director Christina Ciancio-Schor was so impressed that she wrote a $205 check to the organization on the spot. “Why wouldn’t we support kids when they have plans like that and they know what they’re doing?” said Ciancio-Schor.

Their next goal was to win a $10,000 grant from the Social Incubator Fight Back Foundation. They were one of 12 finalists (the youngest ever) that made their pitch on October 14 in a three minute “Shark Tank” style presentation. They were the first group to pitch at 7:00. Two hours later they learned that they did it.

“The vision and dream that we had before, it is a reality now” said Nipunge right after the announcement. A long line of supporters were eager to celebrate with the trio as they gave one hug after another to friends and family.

The goal is to expand district-wide by the time they graduate. Principal Nikki Ballow has no doubt they will succeed, calling them “Stellar young people that really are going to change the world.” They hope to do so one conversation at a time.

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