Dunn awards Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service to the Tahoma High School Student Advocates for Mental Health and Addiction
PHOTO ATTACHED: Tahoma High School’s Student Advocates for Mental Health and Addiction left to right: Mina Bryant (Club Advisor), Emma Ference (Club President), Stella Coffaro (Club Treasurer), Hannah Hovaguimian (Club Vice President), and Gwendolyn Huere (Club Advisor).
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn on Tuesday awarded the Tahoma High School Student Advocates for Mental Health and Addiction (SAMHA) with the Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service, an award that recognizes individuals and organizations whose work has answered the question asked by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “What are you doing for others?”
In the wake of challenges presented by a fully online school year in 2020-2021, many students sought out initiatives to help their peers. Most notable among those was the founding this year of the Student Advocates for Mental Health and Addiction club at Tahoma High School. The SAMHA founders, Emma Ference, Hannah Hovaguimian, and Stella Coffaro, along with the club advisors, Ms. Huete and Ms. Bryant, have been determined to create an environment where all students feel safe and accepted by their high school community.
Tahoma SAMHA is the only student-led advocacy group for mental health and addiction awareness in Washington State. In its first year, the club has had a chance to bring awareness to suicide prevention, drug and alcohol addiction, and is now planning mental health events for Pride Month. Within the Maple Valley community, the club focuses on educating and collaborating with teachers, parents, administration, and community members to expand the reach and diversify the effects of the club.
“I have been extremely impressed by the passion and dedication of the students who run the Tahoma High School Student Advocates for Mental Health and Addiction, which is focused on uplifting and supporting their peers,” Dunn said. “As the mental and behavioral health of our young people continues to be one of the most pressing issues of our time, I am honored to be able to highlight these students by awarding them as a group with this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service.”
This marks the sixth year that councilmembers have each selected an individual or organization from their district whose work embodies the spirit of King’s question.
"Tahoma SAMHA is honored to be receiving the 2022 King County MLK Distinguished Service Award for District 9. This club was founded at Tahoma High School to ensure that no students feel alone or unwelcome in Maple Valley, through awareness and advocating for our peers. Our hope is that this club serves to inspire other students, schools, towns and communities in King County and Washington State, to support each other and break the stigmas around mental health and addiction." Stella Coffaro - Tahoma High School Student/SAMHA Secretary
“Being an advisor to the SAMHA Club has been an absolute honor. We are so lucky to have been able to see this club flourish this year. These students are extremely passionate about mental health and the effects that addiction has on our community. They have hosted events for suicide prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, and have brought awareness to the importance of paying attention to one’s mental health. Getting this award really highlights their hard work and we couldn’t be more proud. These students are excited to continue their work with mental health and addiction awareness and we are so excited to see what the future holds!” Mina Bryant and Gwendolyn Huete - Tahoma High School Student Wellness Advocates/SAMHA Advisors
“We are proud of our Tahoma students’ dedication to creating a space where mental health and addiction can be talked about among peers, and where students can find support, friendship and resources when they need it most.” said Tahoma School District Superintendent Mike Hanson. “The community connections SAMHA makes are so valuable, and we admire students’ courage in having candid conversations with their peers about issues like the fentanyl epidemic and mental health struggles.” Mike Hanson - Tahoma High School District Superintendent
"I think it is very deserving that our newly formed Student Advocates for Mental Health and Addition (SAMHA) Club receives this award. In their first year at THS, they worked very hard to raise awareness in our school community around mental health issues as well as their work during the Drug & Alcohol Awareness Week. It was a great first year for the club and I am excited to see what other events they can bring to our student body. All of this was made possible by the hiring of our awesome Student Wellness Advocates." Mike Hansen - Tahoma High School Assistant Principal