Every year, Advocacy Through Art chooses a theme to center their advocacy on. The choice of theme is a reflection of what the team believes to be an important youth issue to bring advocacy to.
2022: Climate Change
While our parents and the people around us often frame Generation Z as the generation that grew up with technology, there is another common experience that we all share that perhaps impacts us even more deeply: growing up with the knowledge that if the human race does not take adequate action to combat climate change, we will not live our adult lives in the world as we know it. We have constantly been aware of the consequences of greenhouse gasses, have read on the news of the endangerment and extinction of species due to climate change, and have witnessed more weather events of the century than we can count. While we fight for positive change and for the future, the fact that most of us are not adults and do not have complete autonomy over the decisions of our lives can be crippling. For example, while we can try to convince our parents or guardians, some of us do not have the resources or the autonomy to electrify our transportation and homes or live sustainably. The lack of education on how to take care of our mental health in the face of the climate crises has had devastating effects on our generation. This year in Advocacy through Art, we hope to create a community of high schoolers - activists, artists, and people who feel that they do not have a space to communicate their feelings and anxieties surrounding climate change - so we can forge into the future stronger, more hopeful, and more inspired.
2021: Mental Health
Silicon Valley, as the center of the tech world, has long been known for its tremendous innovation and educational opportunities. Start-ups are constantly pushing the boundaries on how we can learn most effectively, and the world of technology is always surrounding us. Palo Alto’s high schools serve as the convergences of everything Silicon Valley has to offer, and while the resources we have at our fingertips are incredible, the intense academic environment that results puts even more pressure on teens who are already facing stressful college processes or job markets.
While many residents are aware of the tragic deaths of Palo Alto high school students by suicide, the daily mental struggle of teenagers in Silicon Valley along with its root causes often remains undiscussed. With the standard goings of high school experiences being stripped away this year - not just hallmarks like prom and graduation, but the daily rejuvenation of socializing and forming personal connections - on top of the grief that ubiquitously accompanies the COVID-19 pandemic, we high school students have especially found ourselves struggling mentally. Being isolated with our families and staring at screens all day has led to many of us suffering silently.
This year, Advocacy Through Art aims to lessen the stigma around youth mental health by using art as a way to spread awareness, foster important conversations, and hopefully provide students with a light from which they can regain happier lives.
We hosted a webinar, Let’s Talk: Youth Mental Health, on March 5th where mental health professionals and students participated in conversations about youth mental health. Then, hosted a series of artist workshops in March which allowed students to destress as well as educate them on how to use art as a medium to spread mental health awareness and express themselves. Finally, in June, we hosted our annual community art exhibition about youth mental health in partnership with the Palo Alto Art Center and the Pacific Art League. This show featured works from local Bay Area students artists. Through our 2021 programming, we were able to raise thoughtful discussions about youth mental health in both the Palo Alto adult and teen communities.