Sophomore Arabella Gipp puts on community mental health resource event, “Surviving or Thriving?”

Gipp named Kansas Boys and Girls Club youth of the year for her work helping promote mental health resource availability


Dylan Wheatman

Sophomore Arabella Gipp was named the state-wide Boys and Girls club youth of the year.

By Tessa Collar, Reporter

Sophomore Arabella Gipp reiterated one word to describe the feeling of a day she had been planning for one and a half years finally arriving: surreal. 

In March 2022, Gipp was named the state-wide Kansas Boys and Girls Club youth of the year. Gipp also traveled to Dallas, Texas in June to represent her state at the Southwest Region Youth of the Year contest. 

Following this achievement, Gipp’s community resource event titled “Surviving or Thriving?” finally came to fruition on Saturday, October 1.

“It was really surreal,” Gipp said. “The entire time I was there I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m here.’” 

The fair took place at Haskell Indian Nations University, with a variety of community organizations present to share information about the services they offer. The event also included activities such as a raffle, fun run, and community painting. 

“I wanted to do something with my title,” Gipp said. “I wanted to do something good. And mental health has always kind of been a big part of my life. I personally struggle with anxiety and depression myself, and I knew that I couldn’t find the resources I needed, whether that’s because health services didn’t offer them or my insurance didn’t offer them.”

The fair included a raffle, and Gipp plans to split the profits two ways between the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and the Landen Lucas Foundation, an organization that provides financial aid to underprivileged youth to make sports participation possible. 

Gipp hopes that she can help others in similar situations gain access to the resources she had trouble finding. 

“I didn’t want anybody else to go through what I had to go through to find a therapist or even find the mental health resources that I needed,” Gipp said. “I wanted it to be something that everyone can just go and learn.”

The fair featured tables from community resources including the Headquarters Counseling Center, The Care Center, Willow Domestic Violence Center, and members of the LHS mental health team. 

Lawrence High social worker Renee Robinson, who tabled at the event, discussed the value in a youth led fair. 

“I think it is wonderful that a student is taking the time and energy to reach the community in this way,”Robinson said. “I believe when youth are the ones to lead this conversation their peers may better hear the message.”

Gipp plans to make “Surviving or Thriving?” an annual or semi-annual event and has considered creating a non-profit organization further in the future with the same goal to raise awareness of community mental health resources. 

“Mental health affects everyone no matter their race, gender, sexuality, or age,” Gipp said. “It needs to be talked about more, especially in BIPOC communities.”

Kansas State Representative Christina Haswood attended the fair to connect with the community, noting the fun atmosphere of the fair and Arabella’s moving personality. 

 “Seeing [Arabella] move mountains as a young Indigenous person is inspiring,” Haswood said. “I decided to go because I wanted to first familiarize myself with all our community partners and make that personable connection.”

Sophomore Jaina Poettker helped Gipp set up the event and sold raffle tickets at the fair. Poettker, a longtime friend of Gipp, emphasized Gipp’s passion and drive. 

“She’s really ambitious and goes for what she wants and what she feels would be best for herself and others,” Poettker said. “Even though she’s always super busy she makes time for stuff that she wants to do and feels passionate about.” 

While Gipp was stationed at an information booth to answer any questions for most of the fair, she said she particularly enjoyed connecting with those who came to the fair. 

“At the end, not a lot of people were coming and so I got to go actually talk to the people that were there,” Gipp said. “That was really fun, getting to know people that I wanted there. That was the best part, I would say.” 

Gipp’s cousin and friend, junior Jada Big Eagle, noted the importance of destigmatizing important topics. 

“I think that it’s really important to have these kinds of events because I think people get kind of scared from topics that are serious like this,” Big Eagle said.

Big Eagle, like Gipp’s other friends and mentors, was glad Gipp’s hard work and determination paid off. 

 “[Gipp] really does try and advocate for things that she believes is right, and I’m really proud of her for that,” she said.