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KS-Hawaiʻi sophomore Ziona Lau is student leader in the My Life. Just Listen. mental health awareness campaign.

Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi haumāna is championing mental health awareness on campus and on-screen

Oct. 16, 2023

October 15-21 is National Safe Schools Week. At KS, the safety of our students is a top priority and we continue to work to provide a healthy, nurturing learning environment for everyone on our campuses, in our preschools and in our business offices.

When Ziona Launiu KSH’26 first became a member of the My Life. Just Listen. Young Leader Council, she wondered what the potential impact of the youth mental health group would be. Now, even adults recognize her from a promotional spot and assert that they are indeed listening.

In partnership with Hawaii News Now, Kamehameha Schools is a community sponsor of My Life. Just Listen., a campaign to support the mental wellness and resiliency of the youth across Hawaiʻi.

Ziona joined their Young Leader Council earlier this year alongside select students from across the pae ʻāina. At the inaugural meeting, the cohort shared their personal experiences and the issues they want to tackle together. As a Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi student and dedicated volleyball player, Ziona grapples with the daily pressures of balancing school, sports and relationships.

It was validating to know she wasn’t the only one.

“That was something everyone talked about. It’s hard to balance good grades, while also trying to have good relationships and being good at sports,” Ziona explained.

While she sees the amount of support and resources surrounding her, the determined 10th grader also recognizes that she doesn’t lean on them enough. As an introvert, there are times she turns up the pressure on herself.

Her mother, Leināʻala Launiu KSK’02, has been a Mālama Ola behavioral specialist since 2018. From time to time, she and her husband have to make the “executive call” and step in when Ziona overloads her schedule with quizzes and volleyball matches.

“I’m used to doing it all myself but I’m learning how to be more open to others who are offering help,” Ziona said.

This is a kernel of ʻike she is trying to impart on her peers in Generation Alpha – that being vulnerable and asking for help is actually a strength, not a weakness.

“Having someone who is able to listen is the most important part, whether you can have someone like that or can be that for someone else,” Ziona articulated.

As for all the adults in the world, Ziona implores them to be more empathetic and attentive to young people. She recounted the time a friend confided in her, feeling like he wasn’t good enough for his family. And while she urged him to talk to a grown-up about it, she knew that opening up was just the first step.

Leināʻala agrees wholeheartedly with her daughter’s plea for compassion from adults. Her eyes brimmed with tears, her pride as a mother and health professional palpable in the kuleana her daughter has accepted. She recommends parents give themselves grace as they raise the next generation and lean on other makua for encouragement.

“If you can be anything, be kind. You never know the struggle that someone else is going through because they don't always show it,” Leināʻala said.

The teen council assembles quarterly and intends to reach Oʻahu students in the future. Their next endeavor involves creating social media accounts tailored to each island, with the goal of raising awareness of their campaign on platforms familiar to high schoolers. Ziona is most looking forward to seeing the followers they gain and creating safe spaces for her peers in person and online.

To learn more about the My Life. Just Listen. campaign click here.

Ziona Launiu (front row second to left) is joined by several other haumana, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and musician Roman Peralta during the filming of My Life. Just Listen. campaign.

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