They may never have sat together in the cafeteria, or had a class with one another, but when the students at Guysborough Academy in Nova Scotia come together, they make change happen.

Students from Guysborough Academy have attended Jack Summit every year since it began in 2013. It was there that the idea for the school’s #JackBlueLaces initiative was born.

Similar to the pink ribbon campaign for breast cancer awareness, delegates at the Summit wanted to create a visible reminder of the important role that mental health plays in all our lives.

In 2015, the students sourced and ordered 1,000 blue shoelaces from a supplier overseas, which seemed like a good idea — until they realized that the time difference meant that the supplier would call in the middle of the night to ask questions about their order.  But the sleepless nights were worth it when they delivered all 1,000 pairs to schools, hospitals, and local businesses across town.

“This year, everyone was asking us, ‘Where are the laces?'" says Leona, the staff advisor for Guysborough's Jack Chapter. “We wanted to take it one step further, so we made it a fundraiser for” Since they wanted to keep the initiative accessible for students, most of the money raised came from local businesses. “We called up local businesses in Guysborough (a county with a population of just over 8,000) and got lots of interest that way,” says Nic, a student and Chapter member.  “Some business owners even asked if they could help distribute laces for the initiative.”

The campaign was a perfect addition to Mental Health Week in May. “We had so many events!" explains Justin, a student and member of the Chapter. All week, the Chapter worked to get students talking about mental health and the laces were a great way to start those conversations.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the week, they raised $700, and the students’ leadership has been widely recognized and celebrated in the community. Well beyond Mental Health Week, the Chapter works to make their community think differently about mental health. Chapter members have brought the conversation to the other student groups they belonged to. In an effort to make mental health a priority for all student groups and clubs, Chapter members have introduced simple tools like including check-ins during meetings to give every student a moment to reflect on how they're feeling.  “These students have shown us (school staff) that we have to listen and respond to student needs. This is a priority for student success.” says Leona when reflecting on the role the Chapter has played over the year.

The work and leadership is especially meaningful for Justin. After losing his father to suicide, Justin wanted to learn more about his dad’s struggles. Being a part of has helped him do that. “I feel like we’re really making a difference in our school and community for sure. I’m proud of our team.”

Because of the leadership and success of the Guysborough Academy Chapter, the #JackBlueLaces campaign spread to 13 other schools across Nova Scotia in 2016! In 2017, #JackBlueLaces will go national with highschool Jack Chapters participating from coast to coast to coast in May.

Brittany Danishevsky is a student at the University of Guelph studying Psychology and Neuroscience. She shares her story in hopes...