Mara Madrigal-Weiss and her small but mighty Student Mental Health and Well-Being team at the San Diego County Office of Education have received prestigious recognition from two local organizations for their work.
Madrigal-Weiss recently accepted the 2017 Hope Rising Award from Point Loma Nazarene University’s Center for Justice & Reconciliation (CJR) and the Trendsetter award at the 14th annual NAMI San Diego Color Ball and Inspiration Awards. NAMI San Diego is the local chapter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
While it was Madrigal-Weiss accepting the local awards at these two events in October, she says the work is a team effort. Assisting her are Project Specialists Violeta Mora and Heather Nemour and Program Secretary Amanda Holt. The team she oversees works to promote youth mental health first aid, fight human trafficking, and provide training about suicide and bullying prevention, intervention skills, and trauma-informed practices.
The Hope Rising Award recognizes exceptional efforts to bring justice and reconciliation to the world, and the 2017 program highlighted efforts to end human trafficking in the region. Since 2009, Madrigal-Weiss has worked with the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Advisory Council, and she is currently co-chair of the education subcommittee. The Hope Rising Award recognizes her team’s work with the “kNOw MORE!” initiative, a student-centered human trafficking awareness and prevention curriculum for middle and high school students.
“The recognition highlights the value of our team and the County Office as a respected partner with law enforcement agencies, child welfare services, universities, and community-based organizations,” she said.
The team has coordinated countywide trainings and workshops that provide awareness, prevention, intervention, and resources to thousands of educators.
“We are so grateful for the work you have done to help launch kNOw MORE! and for your expertise and guidance as we navigate the local school systems in an effort to educate as many of our youth as possible about the risks of human trafficking,” CJR External Relations and Development Director Kim Berry Jones said. The kNOw MORE! curriculum allows youth to learn the warning signs, prevention practices, and more to prevent sex trafficking of children.
The NAMI San Diego Trendsetter award recognized Madrigal-Weiss and her team for making a difference in the field of mental health, including helping to end the stigma surrounding it. The California Department of Education nominated Madrigal-Weiss and the San Diego County Office of Education specifically for Project Cal-Well, a grant for promoting mental health awareness and wellness for K-12 students by training adults in youth mental health first aid. So far, they have trained more than 1,000 people in school districts across the county.
“Our work is about well-being; it’s not about the diagnosis,” Madrigal-Weiss said. “We teach youth-serving adults about one-on-one interactions that they can have to support our students’ well-being in classroom. We want our kids to know that it’s not about being THE best, it’s about being THEIR best.”
Shown at the Hope Rising Awards ceremony are, from left, Amanda Holt, Violeta Mora, Mara Madrigal-Weiss, Heather Nemour, and Veronica Terrazas, all from Student Services and Programs. In the center is County Board of Education President Rick Shea.