A Service by Students: High School Students Raise Money for NAMI

By Achyut

In 2022, a non-profit named Key2Finnese chose NAMI as their partner and set out to raise money for the organization. After several months of hard work, they managed to raise a whopping $113,000 for the program–and the organization is completely run by students.

Key2Finnese started 7 years ago as an organization to help foster the growth of speaking and presentation skills for students. With a mission to create the “leaders of tomorrow,” they strive to perform service for the community and make a collective effort to raise funds for a selected non-profit. The group consists of student volunteers aged 11-17, and several experienced board members. Every year, the board members of Key2Finnese research and select one organization that not only reflects the needs present in the community but provides an outcome that they can connect to themselves.

2022 is no different, as they chose the NAMI Detroit Chapter to help support and advocate for mental health services. The director of Key2Finnese Krish Ghosalkar, a senior at Troy High School and a 4-year board member of Key2Finnese, shared why they chose NAMI. 

“With everything that’s been going on post-COVID, everyone–students included–has seen a connection to mental health. Of course, with everything that has happened across the country, the mental health discussion has been prevalent in today’s society. When we came across NAMI, we believed it was the first mental health organization that started at the basics of education, awareness, and advocacy. We really didn’t see this among other mental health organizations. With everything we’ve been through, it was the first one that stuck out and resonated with us,” Ghosalkar said.

After selecting their organization to support, one of the most important factors was to train the Key2Finnese volunteers to understand more about advocacy and NAMI’s contribution towards mental health. They introduced their board members and volunteers to Mr. Judd, the president of the Detroit Chapter, to learn more about NAMI. 

This preparation included a step-by-step method to speak to members of the community to raise money and ways for the students to pitch to companies and donate to the mission.

“We give every volunteer a folder with infographics about mental health and pass the information to allow them to think about the topic. We also increased the ways people donate by adding common online donation methods. We really tried to improve the interaction between people to prompt the discussion,” Ghosalkar said.

Apart from the work done to fundraise, Key2Finnese also hosts an annual event called Speak the Difference 8.0 which has finally returned as an in-person event. The competitions aim to promote students who excel in several arts such as impromptu speaking, prepared speaking, writing, and art which will all be judged by a panel of board members and specialists. This year, they introduced a new category, requiring students to develop a sales pitch to the audience and judges on how to improve mental health in any way or form. 

“We are transitioning into in-person after two years, which is a big change. These competitions allow us to create a huge monetary impact but most importantly involve more students in our community to become involved in our mission. It really makes a difference in starting the conversation, regardless of the money, and really aspiring to change the mindset of the people, especially students, and remove this stigma in the community!” Ghosalkar said.

Another board member, Varha Penumalee, a junior at Troy High School, mentioned how her perspective as a student has changed from working with NAMI.

“Students can initiate change by speaking to those in their own lives who may be struggling. Working with NAMI has taught me not just the importance of prioritizing mental health, but also how to initiate mental health conversations. The organization’s commitment to educating youth on mental health has made me a kinder, more empathetic individual, ready to reach out for help for myself and others,” Penumalee said.

After the entire fundraiser, the NAMI Detroit President Mr. Judd shared his favorite moment from working with Key2Finnese.

“I had a good feeling about the younger generation and mental health before working directly with them over the course of this year. It has further given me great hope that young people get it and are most willing to help. We should all be encouraged by these young people from the organization Key2Finesse. It was an honor to work with them, help them in their preparations for going out to solicit donations, and provide support materials that helped them in their donation solicitation efforts.”

The remarkable work performed by Key2Finnese and all the students behind the scenes truly shows the impact initiated in our community and the passion of the younger demographics. All the efforts done to raise money will be distributed among the various sections of NAMI and will help promote more impact on the community. If you would like to learn more about Key2Finnese, you can visit their website.

Achyut is a high-school sophomore at the Detroit Country Day School, where he loves writing and pursuing his interests in STEM. He is involved with his school newspaper, robotics team, and is on the Varsity Tennis and Track Team. In his free time, Achyut enjoys reading, playing tennis, and volunteers with NAMI!

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