To the untrained eye, an advanced placement chemistry class might sound like a foreign language, but Wayzata junior, Ruchika Kamojjala, feels right at home.
"I am really interested in the sciences, particularly chemistry and social sciences like psychology," Kamojjala said.
That interest in science goes well beyond the classroom setting. It also happens to be a passion. Kamojjala serves as the president of the student-run nonprofit, 'Helping Every At-Risk Teen,' or HEART.
"And our goal is to break the negative stigma surrounding mental illness and just kind of to promote discussion about mental wellness," Kamojjala said.
To accomplish that goal, she's helped organize a variety of events for students and community members, and she helped start a campaign called 'I'm Still Me.' The campaign uses videos to get the message across that having a mental illness makes you no different than anyone else.
Staff members at Wayzata High School say her efforts have made an impact.
"We have opened up the conversation about mental illness more than ever before," said Judy Hanson, a HEART adviser. "And I think because of that, we have kids seeking services all the time. Our social workers, our counselors, people are busy in this building."
For her efforts, Kamojjala was recently awarded the 'Champion for Change' award by the Minnesota Association for Children's Mental Health
"I nominated Ruchika for that award because I see a young lady who knows what it is she wants," Hanson said. "She's empathetic, passionate, persistent."
Yet while it's nice to be recognized, Kamojjala will be the first to admit that this issue extends beyond personal accolades.
"Cause this is life or death in some instances, and knowing you could have saved their life or changed their life in a positive way, that's all that matters," Kamojjala said.
Nov. 29, 2017