Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Project Proactive: Empowering teenagers


What once started as an Instagram page, Project Proactive, co-founded by Shoshana Mehler and Rebecca Shapiro, is a recently formed not-for-profit organization that works toward destigmatizing mental health in the Jewish community through creative methods of education. Whether it’s through weekly live interviews with mental health professionals and advocates, frequently updated blog posts on their website, or educational information on a range of topics, Project Proactive has created a community and a network of Jewish people around the world speaking up about their personal and second-hand experience with mental health challenges, trauma, insecurities, and validation that nobody is alone in their suffering. 

Resources on the website include, but are not limited to, mental and physical health, trauma, relationships, addiction, family life, anxiety, and proactive and preventative measures.

This information is not just for those who experience or know someone who experiences a mental disorder. This is critical for all people to know. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 26 percent of all American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Out of every four people statistically, one of them is most likely experiencing mental health difficulties. By educating, spreading awareness and normalizing the conversation, those who are struggling will no longer feel alone. 

That’s where the Project Proactive Teen Leadership Development Program comes in. This summer Project Proactive is running its inaugural two-week virtual Teen Leadership Development Program beginning July 27, 2020 (to register for this program, go to http://www.jproactive.com/summer2020). Uniting a select group of high school boys and girls, Project Proactive aims to hone in on practical leadership skills and mental health education presented by influential leaders and mental health activists in the Jewish community. These “Mentors” include speakers such as Marc Fein, Tamir Goodman, Eli Nash, Rachel Tuchman, Betty Gulko, Rabbi Uri and Aliza Polochowski, R’ Eli Zians, and Shevi Samet, as well as many others. The Mentors will share their inner perspective and guidance on a range of topics on how they impact change on a daily basis, and how the participants can empower themselves and others to create a community within their community that embraces those struggling. 

Throughout the two-week period, the teens will engage in workshops, multiple discussion groups and team work opportunities in order to create a short and long term mental health related project that they can implement in their own schools and communities after the program. Over the course of the program, participants will gain a thorough education of the mental health challenges facing our communities today, connections with experts and leaders in our community, an impressive addition to any resume or college application, and a chance to earn $500 toward funding their project within their community.

Project Proactive has teamed up with Yeshiva University’s Summer Consulting Task Force Interns to spearhead this program as the Team Leaders. Shmuel Adler of Manhattan, NY Josh Askowitz of White Plains, NY and Zahava Fertig of Woodmere, NY. These YU students will help guide, support, and facilitate the process with the program participants as they work together to create their projects with the potential to actualize them over the course of the school year.

Recruiting has begun in search of participants who are motivated, confident, creative and passionate about making an impact in their communities. If you think your teen would be a good fit for the program, please visit our website to learn more and apply ASAP at http://www.jproactive.com/summer2020, as spots are already being filled. 

With its mission to normalize the conversation of mental health illnesses, the work that Project Proactive does is commendable and indispensable. 

Supporting Project Proactive is one step toward normalizing the conversation. Take the first step today by following @Project_Proactive on Instagram, @jproactive on Facebook and you can search Youtube, Twitter, and LinkedIn to learn more about how you can make a difference in destigmatizing mental health and keep an eye out for information regarding new information about our upcoming school year Ambassadors Program.

“With your help, we can make this happen,” said Rebecca Shapiro, co-founder.


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