Mikayla Simanski, 19, Peyton Heart Project Ambassador for Dallas, PA. She will be a Peyton Heart Project Ambassador until September 23, 2020. This is her fourth year as an ambassador.
In Mikayla’s own words:
I am so thankful to be a part of The Peyton Heart Project for my 4th year! Being a part of this project has not only taught me the importance of helping others, but also opened my eyes more on how to help myself.
This past year, I have struggled in ways I had yet to experience, navigating a transition as challenging as moving into college. Being away from my family and the things I was comfortable with was a huge struggle for me. College students not only have to face the pressures of doing well in school and making new friends, but they have to do all of that while also being independent for the first time. When my father passed away in 2016, I had a really good support system within my home community that was always there for me when I needed them. When I went away to school, I knew that I still had that support system at home, but I needed to find the same at college as well. Through different clubs, activities, and classes I realized the true importance of sticking up for myself and prioritizing my needs.
I have big plans for my work with The Peyton Heart Project this year! To begin, I am assisting a friend of mine organize her own heart event at the sister high school of the school district that I went to! I think this is really important because it allows the community that I live in to have an even bigger understanding and awareness of what the Peyton Heart Project is all about!
I have big plans to incorporate The Peyton Heart Project at my campus as well! I will be talking to my Resident Assistant on the ways I can incorporate The Peyton Heart Project into the student life at my school!
I am looking forward to a very exciting year! And I can’t wait to keep you all updated on my events!
In Mikayla’s own words:
The past two years being an ambassador for The Peyton Heart Project have been absolutely amazing. Not only have I made an impact on others, but being a part of this amazing organization has helped me cope with my hardships over the past two years. This past year I have participated in many events. To begin, at the start of my senior year of high school I attended the freshman orientation to help guide and inform new students about high school. As the entire freshman class was leaving the auditorium I handed out hearts to every student to have one of their own and [I] informed them all of the project and where to go around the school if they needed help.
This year I also organized a Peyton Heart Project fundraiser at Humphrey’s Tavern where, for the week of Valentine’s Day, a portion of the proceeds went to the project. This fundraiser raised $500 and really helped to further spread The Peyton Heart Project’s message around my community.
Every year for prom my high school donates money to different charities. This year I was fortunate enough to have The Peyton Heart Project be one of the organizations that money was donated to. At prom every student gets a plastic coin at their seat and are able to choose a charity to donate that coin to. After that the prom committee counts up the coins and donates the money in each jar to that organization. This helped raise more funds for The Peyton Heart Project and allowed more of my peers to be aware of this project and its message.
This year I also helped host a Peyton Heart Project event at L’Oreal USA for Take Your Child to Work Day. Along with a good family friend who works there, we helped bring the message of The Peyton Heart Project to all of the kids [who] had gone to work with their parents that day. I gave them supplies and made an informative poster about the project. The kids then created their own hearts to keep as well as hand out to others.
Through The Peyton Heart Project I was also fortunate enough to meet Kevin Hines. His story is so inspiring and life saving. I was able to go and meet him with the founders of the heart project and hand him a heart. It was so amazing for me to be able to do this because I could tell how much that heart meant to him. Along with that I was also able to go to a screening of his movie Suicide: The Ripple Effect. At the movie I assisted other ambassadors in handing out hearts to the other people watching the film. This film was incredibly inspiring and I am so fortunate to have had the experience watching it.
The Student Assistance Counselor at my high school approached me right before I graduated and asked if I could help him with a suicide prevention PSA. Along with a classmate of mine, Caroline, we recorded a PSA for all the students, parents, and teachers to see at my school. Here is the link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/16txGcS5FuPi2ZekGsoSi3tPgwH_EitW/view?ts=5afc1e32
Lastly, around my school I sold Peyton Heart Project buttons to my friends and teachers as a fundraiser for the project.
From all of this I have learned that educating others [about] the topic of suicide prevention is so crucial. Mental health awareness and keeping yourself happy and healthy is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself. This year has unfortunately been a year with many suicides and I feel that more now than ever it is important to keep educating others on the importance of suicide prevention and mental health awareness. If I am accepted as an ambassador for a third year, I promise to continue to promote The Peyton Heart Project and its message throughout my college campus and community as its message is so important for everyone to hear.
I know that everything I have done within this past year has greatly affected my community in a positive way. From seeing other students proudly hanging their hearts on their backpacks, to walking down the street and seeing hearts hung in cars, I know that this message has touched many of my community member’s lives. So often people I know text me when they see a heart hung somewhere or tag me in a suicide awareness related post on Facebook and it means the world to me that I am able to bring The Peyton Heart Project’s message to my community, family, and friends.
I want to be an ambassador for a third year because spreading the message of suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and anti-bullying is so important to me. Over two years ago now my father unexpectedly [died by} suicide and being a part of this project has not only helped me to learn how to cope with my situation, but it has also helped me to help others so they won’t have to know the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. I want to bring The Peyton Heart Project with me as I enter my freshman year at college. This is very important to me because this will help me further spread the message with my now friends, teachers, and others I will meet along the way. I plan to further explore different ways to fundraise for The Peyton Heart Project as well as possibly host different events on my campus to get other students involved in the project. I would also like to hand out and scatter hearts during difficult student week’s like midterms and finals to boost people’s moods.
These past two years with The Peyton Heart Project have been truly amazing and I look forward to continuing my work and spreading this important message to others this next year as well.
(End of 2018 essay)
(beginning of 2017 essay) year 2
Renewal Essay for 2017-18 term:
In Mikayla’s own words:
It is hard to imagine that I have already been an Ambassador for The Peyton Heart Project for one full year! Being a part of this organization and sharing the mission has taught me so much, helped me to grow as a person and to heal from my losses. This year has been both inspirational and rewarding. It has been so inspirational being able to spread positive messages and educate others about preventing suicide and bullying. It was rewarding to see the difference one person can make in a community. I was able to accomplish all that I did because of my amazing support system at home, school, and through The Peyton Heart Project. This past year I have: made and distributed thousands of hearts; created YouTube videos to explain the project to viewers; conducted presentations about the Peyton Heart Project and its mission to various different groups in New Jersey and Indiana; was interviewed for various anti-bullying projects where I spoke about the importance of The Peyton Heart Project and provided a presentation about The Peyton Heart Project to the “sole sisters” club at Voorhees High School, a club that encourages and uplifts girls. The largest single project I conducted was to organize a group of students and faculty members to assist me in distributing over 1,400 hearts at Voorhees High School on Valentine’s Day, which was shared throughout the community in newspapers and on the internet. Most recently, I was interviewed for dose.com ‘s new morning show about my participation with The Peyton Hear Project. As I said earlier, all of this could not have been accomplished if I didn’t have the amazing support system that I do. I will always be thankful for the opportunity I had to serve as an Ambassador to The Peyton Heart Project and truly enjoyed helping to educate others on the importance of preventing suicide, bullying and ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues!
I want to continue to help spread the word and hope to continue to help others in need for a second year as an Ambassador for The Peyton Heart Project. I continue to believe that through education and giving others hope that the stigma associated with mental health issues can be diminished and we can help to prevent bullying and suicide. If accepted as an Ambassador, I promise to continue to promote the Peyton Heart Project and its message. During my second year, I would build off of the momentum I gained during my first year. I would like to continue to make my school more informed on this topic by working with my students’ assistance counselor and other staff. I would also like to partner with our sister High School and my previous middle school to find ways to integrate The Peyton Heart Project into those schools as well. I am also exploring ideas for hosting a fundraiser for The Peyton Heart Project to raise money and awareness for this wonderful organization. I will also continue to spread the word through my church and the community at large. The Peyton Heart Projects’ message is inspiring and I know my continued involvement can help others and through helping others, can further assist me with my healing process.
Initial Essay for 2016-17 term:
By way of introduction, my name is Mikayla Simanski. I am 16 years old and will be a junior in high school this year. I live in a small town in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
I first heard about your organization after a friend of mine ended his own life in November of 2015. A few of the special hearts floated around the area and I saw lots of people posting pictures of them. I found them helpful during a very difficult time.
Earlier this year, on March 17th to be exact, I got the worst news of my entire life. I found out that my father ended his own life. No one in my family expected this to ever happen and we are just left to pick up the broken pieces that he left behind. That has not been the easiest task, but with the help of my family, friends, school, and entire community being so supportive it has been a lot easier lately. Since so many people were so supportive to me, I would love to be able to give back. I researched various organizations and believe your organization and I are a perfect match.
Sadly, bullying is all over the place. I personally have never been bullied. A few of my close friends have been bullied and I have seen how it affects people in a negative way. I see how quickly bullying can totally destroy someone’s self-image, confidence, and way of living. I believe bullying should not be tolerated at all and that education on the subject helps stop it. I hope that with the Peyton Heart Project I can help bring awareness in my community that bullying is not okay, that it’s harmful and cannot be tolerated.
Self-harm is another topic that I personally have not gone through but have seen it affect some of my close friends. It is so sad to see someone I care about so much struggle with self-harm. I believe that being supportive, letting people know they are loved and that there is help available allows those who are involved in self-harm overcome it.
Suicide has touched me personally two times within this past year. As I previously stated, my friend ended his own life in November, and that really was the first time I had to go through suicide personally. Only a few months later, in March, my dad ended his own life. Not only was I devastated, but I was also in complete shock. I never thought or imagined that he would end his life. Because of my personal life experiences with suicide, raising awareness about suicide prevention is very close to my heart and I will do everything in my power to spread that message through the Peyton Heart Project.
Unfortunately, mental health issues have a negative stigma in our society today and because of that, so many people go without help/treatment. Many people just joke about mental health issues or make fun or those who have them. Both family members and friends of mine have struggled with mental health issues, like depression and I know it’s a very serious thing. We need to do more to educate people about mental health and get those in need the treatment they deserve.
A few weeks ago I introduced my aunt to the Peyton Heart Project and within an hour we were already teaching ourselves how to crochet these beautiful little hearts and since then, I have not been able to stop. After every heart I crochet, I get more excited about the Peyton heart project and the message behind it and that’s why I decided to reach out to you.
The Peyton Heart Project means so much to me personally, because it raises awareness about suicide prevention and anti-bullying. I want to help spread the word and hope to help others in need. I hear so often people joke around and say “Oh, I’m going to kill myself!” not even realizing what they are saying.
I have witnessed bullying and see the harm it causes. I want to be part of the solution and help others realize that joking about suicide and bullying should not be tolerated. I believe that through education and giving others hope that the stigma associated with mental health issues can be diminished and we can help prevent bullying and suicide.
I promise to promote the Peyton Heart Project and its message. I can spread the word through my school, my church and the community at large. I would like to create a group/club at my school, Voorhees High School, to bring awareness to the prevention of bullying and suicide and to assist with creating/distributing the hearts/message in my community. The Peyton Heart Project’s message is inspiring and I know my involvement can help others and through helping others, can assist me with my healing process.