“I proved to myself that I can do it,” Denisha Shipps is proud to share as she celebrates joining the 2023 Graduating Class of Summit: Olympus, a charter public school in Tacoma. “When I started high school, I had doubts about whether I could complete this journey because my anxiety was telling me that I couldn’t do it. Today, I’ve shown the world and myself that I’m not going to fall through the cracks. I’m going to college with a full scholarship and will pursue my dreams.”
Prioritizing mental health
As Denisha prepares to attend Tuskegee University in Alabama this Fall, she looks forward to majoring in Political Science with a minor in Psychology.
“I want to advocate for young adults who don’t get the mental health services that they need, often just because the political system isn’t set up to help them,” said Denisha. “I feel like for young people, we often just throw drugs at them to treat their symptoms instead of getting at the root problem that may be disrupting their mental health. That can be a bad road for them to be sent down when all they need is some help.”
As a student at Summit: Olympus, Denisha worked hard with her teachers and her community to prioritize her own mental well-being. “The amount of help I got from teachers during my bad days when I needed a little help getting motivated to get to school, to encourage me to do better, was essential,” said Denisha. Carrie Crain, her AP history teacher, would push Denisha to reach for a higher grade when she earned anything less than an A on a test. “I truly love her,” Denisha said.
Building community with students and teachers
“My teachers at Summit: Olympus always ask me to help challenge my fellow students,” Denisha said. “I want to be there for other students the way that my teachers were always there to help me.”
When she thinks about what advice she would give students just starting their high school journey, Denisha remembers what her brother told her when she started at Summit: Olympus. “Keep your grades on point, join clubs and always be yourself. The more you try to change who you are, the worse things can get.”
While attending Summit: Olympus, Denisha joined the Black Student Union and served as Secretary in the student government. “It was way more paperwork than I was expecting, but my mentors helped me and it was really interesting learning how the school actually runs so that we could help make it even better.”
“I’ve always struggled with Math,” Denisha shares. “I wish I was good at it but I’m not and it created some academic holes that I had to work hard to climb out of. I made extra time to visit with teachers during office hours and get that extra help – especially with AP Statistics. I really love the classes but I can get frustrated while taking a test. I’ve learned to just take a few minutes out of class so I can have a breather, ask teachers for help and then I can dial it back in.”
Denisha’s family is also a big part of her support network and she shares that she might have fallen through the cracks without their help. While she is looking forward to a new start in Alabama, she’s a little nervous that her closest family will be in Florida. “I am looking forward to the fresh start, however,” Denisha shares. “I’ve lived my whole life in Washington – from Federal Way to Lakewood, Tacoma, University Place and now Puyallup. I’m looking forward to living somewhere other than the Northwest for a change.”
What comes next?
“After school, I want to move to Georgia and start my life there. I like the idea of the South and the surroundings of the state. Something that seems faster-paced than the Northwest but slower than a place like New York City. I know I want to get stuff done there and that’s good for my mental health.”
For now, Denisha is too busy to catch concerts by her favorite artists like Daniel Caeser and SZA. “I love how they articulate their words in their music,” she says, as she recalls how much she also loves Alicia Keys because she grew up listening to her with her mom. But Denisha knows what her path is ahead of her because she has proven to herself that she is capable of whatever she puts her mind to. So whether it is in the Northwest, Alabama, Georgia or anywhere in between, we look forward to what Denisha does next on her journey to help young people with their mental health so that they don’t fall through the cracks.
We hope she finds time soon to see one of her favorite artists perform – Denisha has certainly earned it.