BOSTON (CBS) – A local tween is on a mission to help students who are struggling with mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jay'dha Rackard led her first rally when she was just 10 years old, protesting a persisting problem on her school's playground: used needles.
"People were getting pricked, kindergarteners, so it just wasn't safe for me to go to school," said Jay'dha, who is now 12.
She called for increased safety measures at her school in Boston's South End and started shining a light on the root of the problem: the school's proximity to the so-called Methadone Mile.
"That's when I started speaking up for people saying they needed this health care and needed just help to make them feel better."
Jay'dha brought her concerns to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and started collecting and donating clothes, deodorant and toothbrushes to those struggling on the streets. She even spent this past Christmas out in the rain handing out coats and food.
"I was always taught to take care of other people and help other people when they need it," she said.
Jay'dha left her school in the South end and now attends the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester.
Now, a year into the coronavirus pandemic, this young leader has noticed a new problem among her peers. "There are a lot of people who are suffering with this right now because they're not able to see their friends or go to school," she said.
So Jay'dha applied for and won a $20,000 grant from the Boston Public Health Commission that she used to design a self-care workshop.
"Self-care is mental health," said Jay'dha.
Over the February school break, she gathered a small group of girls at her brother's recording studio in Hyde Park to talk about how the pandemic is making them feel.
"We wrote tired, bored, annoyed, depressed," said Jay'dha, pointing to a list of words written on a sheet of paper on the wall.
The girls also made salt scrubs, crafted custom t-shirts, and made masks with positive messages.
"Fearless, beautiful, brave-- a lot of words we put on the masks."
They also took dance lessons and wrote powerful poems.
"I am happy, I am beautiful, I am healthy, I am strong."
Jay'dha's said she saw a difference in just a day.
"There was one young lady that came that was very quiet. By the time she was leaving she was talking, she was laughing, she was participating and that meant a lot," said Janina Rackard.
This 12-year-old is determined to help inspire future leaders and make sure current leaders are listening to children. She plans to hold more workshops in the future and hopes those who attended the first one will help spread the message of self-care.
"They can start now and do what they want to do and be who they want to be and achieve their goals," said Jay'dha.
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