jiale (coco) zhu
The Shield Initiative
For Jiale Zhu, art has always been a part of her since kindergarten: quick sketch, oil pestle, acrylics, ceramics, sculpture, procreate and more. Though not a gifted artist in any sorts, she slowly got used to a routine that brought her back to the art studio even in the busiest times in her high school years.
It was not until her sophomore summer that she realized the value of this art routine. Overworking herself for a whole summer left her vulnerable to all sorts of mental issues and anxieties. Thinking back to the moments she spent painting, she found out the absence of self-care during that summer. That is, the importance of self care and mental-health among high school students, especially therapies coming in the form of art.
About every 1 in 5 K6-12 students have experienced some sort of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety.etc. While most high schools have well-established counseling offices, the system is only helpful for students with serious and developed mental disorders. Wellness activities that are attractive and helpful to the mass majority is the missing piece, causing students not able to understand the significance of practicing self-care in the busy academic years. As a result, a lot of students, including herself, often stigmatize the idea of resting under a packed schedule, until the stress piles up into more severe issues.
Her vision is to re-bring the spotlight of a healthy self-care habit back to high school students. By weaving blocks of art therapy into student’s daily school life, she wants to create a network where schools can actively provide their students a schedule that incorporates self-care and study. Students should learn the importance of self-care, and learn how to practice simple selfcare through art therapy. Therapy should not only be provided to the grown-up-world, but also to young adults who are gradually stepping into society.
Outside of this, Coco is an active athlete and you would find her often furthering camaraderie with her friends and teammates in the art studio and gym. She also works as an active leader of the art club in her current high school and as a content creator for a women-activist organization.
Coco will be co-organsing and presenting at Learning Planet Festival 2023: "Together, we can build a Canopy of the Future: Introducing the SHIELD Initiative."