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Walgreens Expressions Challenge Provides Creative Outlet For Teens To Cope With COVID-19 Pandemic

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Expressions Challenge aims to use creativity and art to help teens cope.

The nationwide competition put on by Walgreens features art of all kinds by teens struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic – with a focus on difficult and serious subjects such as mental health, suicide, anxiety, cyberbullying, and the pandemic itself.

CBS 2's Marie Saavedra spoke with three of the Chicago winners.

Ivie Aiwuyo created a video about the overuse of technology by teens – and frankly, by all of us.

"I wanted to ensure that people didn't forget about the world outside of technology, and that you can still, like, do things and interact with real people and real things," Aiwuyo said. "People around me – they also felt like truly inspired by my video, and it was also kind of like an eye-opener because it wasn't really something people like cognitively thought about. So I think it definitely allowed people to like, be more aware of like what they spend their time doing, and like be inspired to try new things."

Kenneth Howard wrote a rap called "Follow Your Heart" about knowing your self-worth.

"Since I was beginning to feel like up in the spirit and things of that nature, I felt that maybe I should give, you know, everybody else some hope," Howard said.

Samantha Oliva produced a video called "Just Grow with It," about the power of a positive attitude.

"The Impressions Challenge kind of gave me an opportunity to freehand a video and try and connect with other people," Oliva said.

Saavedra asked the teens what they wanted people to know about how their generation is coping and dealing with the pandemic right now.

"The lesson of like patience and trying to understand each other, and like really taking the time to know what's going on in the people around you's lives," Oliva said.

"The pandemic was very scary – it was scary for me," added Howard, "and I just wanted to make that song to let people know that it's OK."

"Like mental health – I know personally I never really thought about it until before the pandemic arrived – until I started dealing with mental health issues myself, and so I feel like with the pandemic, that put smore emphasis on self-care and taking care of your mental health," Aiwuyo added.

Aiwuyo said the ability to express herself is very important in her life.

"Very important – especially being like youth, usually I feel like our voice is like kind of shunned or pushed to the side, so I feel like Expressions Challenge kind of gave us a platform where we can like express our voices and things that matter to us – and so I feel like that was definitely valuable for me because that was something I was not like really used to, and so I like that our voice is kind of prioritized," she said.

"I feel the same way here – I feel that the Expressions Challenge really gave us an outlet to really express ourselves," said Howard.

"It just kind of gave you a chance to be heard," added Oliva.

Dr. Charles L. Alexander, a licensed clinical psychologist who worked with the teens, said he was highly impressed with their creative output.

"I think it is great – a purpose and voice, and then just the pride that comes with the creative product, you know, the end results," he said.

For information on entering this year's Expressions Challenge, follow this link.

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