I Remember That First Meeting That Brought Us All Together

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I remember that first meeting that brought us all together-- none of us entirely aware of what we were about to begin. The loving, frantic hands of Carolina Neff hurried us through the doors of Lil' Riccis on a Monday evening. Around two pushed-together round tables sat an oddly-mixed group of eight-or-so high schoolers-- some who only knew of Koby, some who were acquaintances, some who knew him as a close friend-- all of us looking towards an unfamiliar woman holding a box of King-size Snickers and a sheet of home-printed, black-and-white stickers that read "You Matter." 

After Koby took his life, his choice being the most recent of eight that had occurred throughout my high school career, our school was desperate for answers-- for resolutions. And the school did pursue efforts-- new programs, student government initiatives, and other club/administrative actions for bettering our school environment. But our oddly-mixed group didn't belong to an entity, or an organization, or an association. We were just friends, connected by love and laughter and passion-- and now, service. 

Within time, our home-printed paper stickers turned to multitudes of bulk ordered, self-designed, uplifting stickers, proudly exhibited on the candy bars we offered to our peers, and the water bottles and binders of more and more high schoolers within our district than we could have imagined. Our quaint meetings with a small handful of students gathered over a home-cooked meal turned into gatherings of 30+ students, filling the backyard with as many fold-out chairs as we could find, and enough food to host a wedding reception. Simple ideas turned into weekend creativity retreats. Our humble beginnings and small gestures inspired larger programs to imitate our methods. We went from having to repeatedly answer the question, "What is a happy campaign?" to inhabiting five high schools, two middle schools, even college campuses, and being featured on the Denver news. 

As I sat semi-awkwardly in Lil Riccis that Monday evening my junior year, I never could have dreamed of what would be created from that night. Happy Campaign not only became a soul-fire zeal of mine, but it was my opportunity to allow my passion for mental health awareness to flourish. It was my chance to spend even more time with my closest friends, as we dedicated our nights to making an influence in our school. It was my tool to affect change and positivity within my community, to an extent I never imagined possible. This little project that was presented to my friends and I four years ago is now a movement that continues to spread love and support, and encourage individuality and purpose among teens... and it's something that I'll never give up. 

Kendall Graham