‘As uplifting as possible’: Smith Academy students feted for winning posters on mental health awareness 

  • Smith Academy freshmen Alexa Jagodzinski, left, and Caitlin Graves talk about the collages they created for a contest sponsored by Hatfield HEADS Up to celebrate “a famous person who has shown courage in living with their mental health challenge.” Photographed at the school on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Jagodzinski chose Serena Williams and Graves chose Dwayne Johnson. HEADS Up, Hatfield Embraces Acceptance & Dismantles Stigma, is a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting and supporting mental health. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith Academy freshmen Alexa Jagodzinski, left, and Caitlin Graves talk about the collages they created for a contest sponsored by Hatfield HEADS Up to celebrate “a famous person who has shown courage in living with their mental health challenge.” Jagodzinski chose Serena Williams and Graves chose Dwayne Johnson. Photographed at the school on Thursday, May 19, 2022. HEADS Up, Hatfield Embraces Acceptance & Dismantles Stigma, is a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting and supporting mental health. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Smith Academy freshmen Alexa Jagodzinski, center, and Caitlin Graves accept gift certificates from Hatfield HEADS Up board member Sally Winings, left, for their winning posters in a contest to celebrate “a famous person who has shown courage in living with their mental health challenge.” HEADS Up, Hatfield Embraces Acceptance & Dismantles Stigma, is a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting and supporting mental health. Photographed at the school on Thursday, May 19, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • This collage by Smith Academy freshmen Alexa Jagodzinski is one of two winning posters in a contest sponsored by Hatfield HEADS Up to celebrate “a famous person who has shown courage in living with their mental health challenge.” Photographed at the school on Thursday, May 19, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • This collage by Smith Academy freshmen Caitlin Graves is one of two winning posters in a contest sponsored by Hatfield HEADS Up to celebrate “a famous person who has shown courage in living with their mental health challenge.” Photographed at the school on Thursday, May 19, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/23/2022 9:43:27 AM

HATFIELD — Tennis great Serena Williams demonstrates courage by facing challenges in her life, including her self-diagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder.

Similarly, entertainer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson overcame struggles in his youth by seeking out assistance, even if it was perceived as a failure to do so.

“Asking for help is not a weakness. as a matter of fact, help is our superpower,” Johnson has said.

Both celebrities are at the center of collages, created by two Smith Academy freshmen, that are being recognized by the Hatfield Embraces Acceptance & Dismantles Stigma mental health organization, also known as Hatfield HEADS Up.

Alexa Jagodzinski, who chose to focus her work on Williams, sought to find a famous athlete who has gained fame while also inspiring people. Jagodzinski said she was aware that Williams battled OCD, depression and anxiety after having her first child.

“She was a really inspiring person to base my poster on,” Jagodzinski said. “Serena faced challenges head on and spoke out.” 

Caitlin Graves said Johnson made sense as the subject for her poster, as everyone can relate to his positive messages.

“His main thing was about how you’re never alone,” Graves said. “I wanted to spread that across the poster and make it as uplifting as possible.”

The collages feature photographs of Williams and Johnson, with Jagodzinski’s work prominently featuring the word “courage” and also decorated with hearts.

In Graves’ poster, there is a photograph of cereal, made into the shape of a heart, and other representations of Johnson’s youth, when he struggled before finding happiness. Her work emphasizes the word “superpower.”

HEADS Up has been in existence since 2016, formed following reported suicides by teenagers, and has been dedicated to promotion and supporting mental health efforts in the community by combating the stigma and resistance young people have to asking for help.

Board member Sally Winings, who presented the Graves and Jagodzinski certificates from Pioneer Valley Karting, said it was evident that the girls put significant thought and time into their posters. 

Jean Hobbie, also a board member for HEADS Up, called the posters “creative, original and inspired.”

“We did put a lot of work into them to express mental health, and give that a nice piece of attention,” Jagodzinski said. 

The winning posters, as well as 14 others, will be prominently featured during the annual Water Palooza walk and run in the summer that takes place around the center of town. The event serves as both a fundraiser and a mental health awareness day.

Next week, the organization is co-sponsoring the screening of “Race to be Human,” an IndieFlix documentary outlining the impact of racism on mental health. The film will be shown Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Hafield Elementary School, timed to the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. 

Hatfield HEADS Up is joining with Hatfield Equity Alliance Fighting Racism Together, or HEART, to sponsor that, and the showing is financed with help from the Collaborative for Educational Services’ Hampshire Franklin Tobacco-Free Community Partnership.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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