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New Stories from the YAB

Talia, 17

Hi, my name is Talia. I am 17 years old. I am the President of the PACER Youth Advisory Board on Mental Hea\lth and have been on the board for 3 years. I joined the YAB to tell my story and to help decrease stigma about mental health. I enjoy theatre, poetry, and singing, and I also like to knit. After high school my plan is to enroll in a four-year college and go into either forensic toxicology or neuroscience.

I have bipolar and anxiety, and I would like to tell you a story. When I think about where I am today in my life, I am really proud of how far I have come. It has been a long journey for me. During most of my elementary school years, I was unstable. Those years were spent in and out of different schools, treatment programs, and hospitals because of my symptoms, which had a big impact on my education and staying in schools.

I had a lot of behavior issues because of my mental health issues, but everyone thought I was a bad kid. They didn't realize that I was a sick kid. Teachers saw me as the kid who had problems, not as a kid who needed help.

My message to other kids who are struggling is to never give up your dreams, find the adults who believe in you, and never let anyone define who you are and what you can be.

~ Talia

Update: Talia just completed her freshman year at Drake University and received the Otto Bremer Youth Leadership Award at Pacer’s Annual Benefit in 2019.


Nyk, 19

Hello, my name is Nyk. I am 19 years old and my pronouns are he/him/his. I have been a part of the Youth Advisory Board on Mental Health for nearly 3 years. As a member of the Youth Advisory Board, I got to know other members as we related based on shared struggles.

I attend Transitions Plus, and I’m on my way to college, hopefully. But, I struggle with being impulsive and tend to lock myself away from doing activities that put myself out there due to fear that I might not be good enough to succeed. For example, if I were to attend college I might arrive in class and become hyperactive, rowdy or rambunctious. And then, I might not follow directions which might lead the instructor to tell me to leave. I play this image over and over in my mind and realize I need more time and support if I want to succeed.

So, I build from my strengths and my interests. For example, I enjoy being outside, dancing, and writing poetry. I love expressing myself through art. Being around other people inspires me. It helps me practice building healthy relationships, which is a skill I can use with other people.

One message for people who work with others like me who might be afraid of failure is to help them understand their goal and how to get there. Make it plain and simple, and don’t give up on them.

~ Nyk


Aaron, 17

My name is Aaron. I am 17 years old. I have been on the Youth Advisory Board for 2 years, and I will be a junior in high school this year.

Right now, I need help doing productive activities and having somebody nearby. This is because I have difficulties with impulse-control. I tend to get reckless. If I act on being reckless, it impacts the trust that I have built with people I care about and strongly admire. It also impacts my future goals to have a paying job I like and becoming a taxpayer like other adults.

Some skills that are helping me right now are practicing how to keep a calendar, so I can make sure to have some exciting activities in my schedule. For example, I like gymnastics, running cross country, playing tennis, and spending time with friends who are okay with who I am and share similar interests.

It’s hard for me to keep my boredom in check. But, if someone I know and trust is nearby they can help by positively redirecting me to something interesting. This helps. One of the most important goals I have for my future is to be 100% independent.  Independent to me means knowing that people are not managing me --- I’m managing myself.

~ Aaron


Isaiah, 17

Hello, my name is Isaiah. I’m 17 years old. I have been a member of the Youth Advisory Board for more nearly 4 years.

Over the years, school has been a real challenge for me because of anxiety related to Autism. As a result, I ended up changing schools a lot.  But I want to share with you about important experiences that really helped me figure out what type of career and training I’m interested in after high school.

My advisory group went to a car show where I saw all types of cars, including electric cars. Then we had a mini-experience week. During that week, we learned how to budget money and about types of career choices that might be interesting to me. I kinda got into it.

Having meaningful school experiences is important, and as a result of these two experiences I now know I want to look into a career with making cars and then having my own 3-wheel car dealership. I’m hoping to go to a tech school to learn how to start a business, learn about automotive technology and alternative energy sources like electricity and solar.

I really want my IEP team to help me meet my goals and be prepared for acceptance into a tech school that will help me reach my career goals.

My message is if you are supporting a youth like me who struggles with anxiety, related to autism, get to know them and find out what they’re interested in. Help them pursue their interests through their school experiences.

~ Isaiah