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Meet the 2021 Mental Health Scholarship Winners!

2021 Mental Health Changemaker Scholarship Winner

Lor Sabourin

"The field of mental health, and creating more empowering mental health services for underserved communities, is something that is important to me because of my own journey with finding affirming mental healthcare. When I came out in my early teens, I felt afraid and unsupported by the people that I loved the most. I experienced a mental health crisis after being assaulted by a classmate and struggled to find affirming mental health services. At best, therapists were not prepared to support and affirm my gender; at worst, they targeted my gender identity as something that could be fixed. At the time, I was lucky to find a community of people at a local climbing gym and LBGTQ+ community center that took me in and helped me find the resources that I needed to take care of my physical and psychological needs.

Now, I am passionate about being able to give back to the communities that took care of me when I was struggling. While there have been improvements in LGBTQ+ visibility over the past several years, this has not been matched by an increase in protections or resources for LGBTQ+ people. When I work with LGBTQ+ teenagers in crisis, I often ask them about their self-care strategies. Many teens don’t know how to respond– they have not been taught that they deserve to be cared for, even by themselves. Many of the teens that are experiencing a mental health crisis are afraid to go to a counselor or seek out professional help because they do not know if they will be told, once again, that their identity is not valid.

I would love to be able to change the narrative around mental health services for LGBTQ+ people by increasing accessibility to alternative forms of therapy. I believe that incorporating somatic therapy, adventure therapy, art therapy, and other interventions that break out of the traditional talk-therapy model provide a unique opportunity to deconstruct systems of oppression that exist in the field of mental health. These approaches to therapy also provide important self-care resources to participants. Many therapists who are serving transgender people are cisgender. I know that I would have felt much safer working with a transgender counselor when I was in crisis. I would love to give transgender clients the opportunity to see themselves represented in the field of mental health.

I envision creating mental health services that teach people from underrepresented communities, and specifically my community, that they are worthy of affirming care and that they have the power to heal. I know that this will take a lot of work. This year, over half of the states in the US are considering bills that take away human rights from transgender people. There are so many people that are living in fear right now. I believe that it is important to make mental health services feel accessible to the communities that they serve. Many LGBTQ+ people, even those in severe crises, feel nervous about pursuing traditional therapy. I envision creating comprehensive mental health programs that offer alternative approaches to mental healthcare at community centers such as the LGBTQ+ center that helped connect me with resources as a teenager."

2021 Mental Health Warrior Scholarship Winner

Danni Pegelow

"During these uncertain times I’ve come to know myself better than before. This scholarship will give me the ability to find a therapist that can set me on the path to success. I’m extremely blessed to be chosen for this award and my life will be immensely better for it."

2021 Mary Louther Changemaker Prize Recipient

(Mental Health Changemaker Scholarship Runner-Up)

Zabreen Shaikh

"It is an honor to be a recipient of the Mary Louther Changemaker Scholarship. This award will enable me to pursue graduate studies in marriage and family therapy at San Diego State University, where I will provide accessible and multicultural therapy to diverse communities. I am so appreciative of Letters 2 Strangers for recognizing my commitment to creating a healing environment for others and allowing me to truly become a Changemaker in the mental health field. Thank you L2S for choosing me to hold this esteemed title, and thank you to my family and friends for their unwavering support!"

2021 Mary Louther Finalist Prize Recipients

(Mental Health Changemaker Scholarship Finalists)

Emily Chu

"I am honored to be considered as one of the top 10 finalists for this year’s Changemaker Scholarship. As someone who has struggled with mental health over the years, I am grateful to say that I have been able to overcome them with the help of those around me and used the momentum to start a project of my own to help emphasize the importance of vulnerability. As a top 10 finalist, it means that my efforts have not been in vain and encourages me to be even more ambitious with my future endeavors during my next fours years at university! Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!"

Taylor Lee

Taylor Lee is an incoming freshman at the University of California, San Diego double majoring in computer science and cognitive science with design and human specialization. She is planning to take a gap year to work at Google in San Francisco and continue her mental health advocacy projects in her free time and through the mental health startup she co-founded with a college freshman.

Taylor has been a strong mental health advocate since the beginning of her high school career where she found herself and peers struggling with their own health. From there, she joined the National Alliance on Mental Illness spearheading multiple district and school-wide initiatives where she served as the treasurer her junior year and president her senior year.

She has been a contributing writer for Los Angeles Times interviewing mental health advocates, professionals, and students in her community and nationally and researched the mental health impacts from COVID-19 with Harvard University in 2020. She won the Congressional App Challenge in 2019 for creating a mental health app, which was displayed in #HouseofCode, a national STEM science fair in the Capitol in DC.

She is extremely grateful for the scholarship and what Letters to Strangers stands for because mental health advocacy is something she hopes to continue in college and her career."

Jasmine Gill

"I am honoured to be the recipient of this scholarship, and so thankful to Letters to Strangers for this opportunity. I have been an avid mental health changemaker throughout my high school career, and am so passionate about bringing about positive change. In the future, I hope to be able to serve in an engineering position that enables me to have an even greater impact to less fortunate and under-represented groups. I am so grateful for this vote of confidence, my educational pursuits would not be possible without your generous support. Thank you once again."

Lizbeth Valdivia-Jauregui

"I am honored to have been selected as a finalist. This award is not only for me but for my community that has made this possible and has challenged me to transcend the various barriers in my journey. This award will allow me to fulfill my career dream to pursue a clinical psychology PhD that focuses on healing justice and the importance of community psychology. Eternally grateful to Letters to Strangers for believing in the power of mental health and fostering self and community care!"

Katelyn Weinstein

"To me, this award means a number of things. It represents my personal journey in understanding my own mental health, and how my story has shaped my success and my plans for the future. It reminds me that I can channel my struggles into leadership, and how by being vulnerable and advocating for mental health, I can help others. The support of this award will allow me to further pursue my long-term goals as I enter a degree in psychology and build my career as an advocate. My ultimate hope, however, is that I will be able to pave the way for future advocates. By setting an example of leadership, I can pave the way for future advocates to share their stories and continue this important fight."

Nikita Rohila

"It is a great honor to be a finalist awardee for the Mental Health Changemaker Scholarship. During difficult times, the mental health field leads with purpose, saving lives and providing support to billions across the world. As a mental health advocate, I am determined to become a change agent in this field. Specifically, I will strive to destigmatize mental health and endeavour to promote inclusion for marginalized groups in access to quality and affordable resources. It means so much to me to be a finalist for this scholarship program and to be recognized by Letters to Strangers for my work on transforming the mental health field. The Mary Louther Finalist Prize will financially support my academic journey as an undergraduate student. Thank you, Letters to Strangers."

Haania Mahmood

"I am elated to receive the Mary Louther Finalist Prize. As a mental health advocate and incoming college freshman, this scholarship will facilitate my goal of ending the mental health stigma by relieving some of the financial burden of tuition. I aim to spend more time spreading mental health awareness at my university and beyond. Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Rutendo Nyanhanda

"I am very honoured and happy to be one of the finalists. Getting this far gives me hope and courage to soldier on. Your reply empowered me to have a zeal of doing more. I am very happy to be awarded the $300 which I now feel that I want to use for advocacy on mental health under Letters to Strangers+Zimbabwe. $300 for advocacy in my community can change the lives of many Youths. With your permission I would like to use this grant to have an impact on many lives and not only for my own benefit."



The Changemaker Scholarship Winner and Warrior Scholarship Winner each received $3000 USD for mental health higher education and healthcare treatment costs respectively. The Mary Louther Changemaker Prize Recipient received $500 USD towards mental health higher education, and the Mary Louther Finalist Prize Recipients received $300 USD each towards mental health-related higher education.

The 2021 Scholarship Applicants included entrants from the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, Croatia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, India, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Ecuador, Vietnam, Israel, Brazil, Jordan, South Korea, U.K., China, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Germany, Liberia, Australia, as well as those of Undocumented/Refugee Status. 76.25% identified as Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color, while 9.2% identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community

To learn about the Letters to Strangers Mental Health Scholarships, please check out this page here.


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