“A healthy mind is a wealthy and empowered mind”. Those were the powerful words proclaimed by Mr. Antoine White, Vice President of Calvert County Public Schools. Mr. White’s words are motivational to be sure, and his statement reverberated loud and clear throughout the College of Southern Maryland, Prince Frederick campus at the introduction of “It’s Valid” Photography Gallery.

Credit: Sal Icaza – Solomons Island Photography

Formulated by BecomeOne, the “It’s Valid” project focuses on high school student’s mental health by bringing awareness to the forefront. To be specific, 42 students from all four Calvert County High Schools shared with the community their coping mechanism to stay or get back to a state of mental wellness: praying, reading, playing a musical instrument, extra focus on academics, sports, etc.  

Artist and photographer Shelly Gooding magnificently captured these coping mechanisms. Gooding’s Gallery is worthy of the highest accolades.

Credit: Sal Icaza – Solomons Island Photography

“Students that participated in the “It’s Valid” project are to be celebrated for their valuable contribution to our community, and that’s what we are doing today. This project is all about them, it is about their perspective, their experiences and their solutions “stated, Anita Santoyo, founder of BecomeOne.

“We all have our anxieties and issues to overcome.” Stated, Behavioral Health expert, Dr. Zelma Klara Mark who was instrumental in the “It’s Valid” project. “Thus, the question becomes, what do you do to get back to a state of mental wellness?  These young students have given all of us an insight and examples how to cope and improve one’s mental wellness with a visual, kinesthetic, and auditory examples.” Concluded, Dr. Mark.

Credit: Sal Icaza – Solomons Island Photography

It was a meticulously well-organized event, with an estimated attendance of 225 people.  Top Law Enforcement officials to include Vince O’Donell and Sheriff Cox, Calvert County School Superintendent, Dr. Andraé Townsel, and administrators, and members of our faith-based community were in attendance.  Ms. Gertrude Brown set the tone early with a heartfelt and inspirational opening prayer, followed a powerful lineup of speakers, highlighted by students’ testimonials.

It was a diverse and curious crowd, from all walks showing their support, approval, and appreciation for the students, BecomeOne, and photographer Shelly Gooding.  

If BecomeOne’s goal with the “It’s Valid” project is to bring awareness to mental health coping mechanisms, they knocked it out of the park. If BecomeOne’s goal is to do its part in building a better community, they are delivering.

BecomeOne’s goal is to make a difference for the better. This is what a passionate Santoyo had to say “I believe we all can change the world. We all do it everyday. With each choice, each action, each word, we either raise the vibration of this universe or we lower it. We all have a choice, and we all do both. We change it everyday. Either way. And we have a choice in every moment which way we aim.”

Everyone left the exhibition with a healthier and wealthier mind.

Credit: Sal Icaza – Solomons Island Photography

I wish to dedicate this article to all that suffer with mental health. You are not alone, and there is help.  OUR CUMMUNITY CARES.  FOR HELP CALL THE CALVERT COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT 410-535-5400 EXT 318. In case of an emergency please call 911 immediately.


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