Empowering Students to Find Their Voice

Empowering Students to Find Their Voice

Empowering Students to Find Their Voice

May 5th, 2021 

Written by Brooke Hulbert, Treetops Collective Intern 

I was a Teacher's Assistant at Hope College when I first met Peninah, the creator of the Find Your Voice journal. Peninah, just a few years younger than me, demonstrated vulnerability and strength as she shared to a class of new faces her mental health journey. When I got my hands on the journal, it became a life-line to me. Finally, a space to be with myself and my thoughts, and an intentional way to prioritize my own mental health. As college students, mental health can often be placed on the back burner. From homework, work-life, student-life and so much more, there always seems to be an infinite list of things standing in the way of our mental health. Though, Peninah helped me to remember mental health should be our number one priority. With the Find Your Voice journal, it’s easy to carve out 5 minutes in your busy schedule to sit down, reflect and be present with yourself and your feelings. 

Peninah’s story and journal inspired me to get connected and become an intern with Treetops Collective. My goal was to use the journal as an outlet to advocate for mental health on a campus of arguably over-committed college students who were managing the day to day demands of college-life along with the stressors of the pandemic. It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of many. The Journal of Medical Internet Research actually indicates from a study of 195 college-students, 71% of students revealed that their stress and anxiety surged from the pandemic (Son et al., 2020). As a college student myself, I have witnessed this surge and hoped that the journal could mitigate its impact on students' mental health. With the partnership of Anna Bonnema, I have had the opportunity to work with and bring the benefits of the journal to students from the FACES (Fostering a Community of Excellence in Science) program, a peer mentoring program at Hope for underrepresented first-year students. 

We helped students to utilize journaling as a tool for mental health by providing prompt activities for students to find creative ways to connect with themselves and the journal. The beautiful thing about these prompts is students had the opportunity to practice the suggested activities when they could find time within their schedules. 

A few of these prompts included: 

Beyond the journal prompts, students in the FACES program had the opportunity to meet remotely with Peninah. Peninah inspired the students in the same way she initially inspired me. As Peninah vulnerably shared her story with the students, I recognized the look of hope, inspiration and empowerment that registered on the students faces. Throughout this experience, the quote from Brené Brown became all the more real “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”. Peninah’s story and journal granted us new found hope to transform ourselves as we journal and center mental health in our daily lives. 

“I liked the journal because it gave me a designated space to write in. It had a beautiful set up and was easy to make it my own. I am using the journal as a place to write my thoughts, keep track of my goals, and stay organized. Journaling has helped me to be more grateful for my experiences. Having them written down, it is easy to separate yourself from the situation so you can look at it from a broader perspective as well as gauge your own feelings. I hope to continue to use it as I have been but also I want to start using it as a language journal as well to track how far I come in language learning and proficiency” -
Hope College and FACES student.

The beauty of the Find Your Voice journal is that it holds no limits. Any person, group, organization, et cetera can seek the benefits of this empowering journal. Further, this journal can be used creatively by the beholder. For me, it was the most useful as a day to day check in on my mental health. For others, it has been a coloring book, a planner, a place to draw and so much more. Another bonus this journal provides is affirmative quotes littered throughout the pages that offer much-needed encouragement. It’s been a privilege to learn and grow from Peninah, the Find Your Voice journal and Treetops Collective. 

To learn more about Peninah's work and how you can utilize the journal at your organization, visit this page.

Work Cited