NORTH SMITHFIELD – Senior Cali Keovongsavang says it was a feeling of disconnect that prompted her to launch a podcast focused on mental health, social dynamics, and relationship dynamics as her senior project this year at North Smithfield High School.
The project, a graduation requirement at the school, has students work with mentors in the community who are professionals in their respective fields, and complete research papers, ultimately submitting a portfolio on the experience.
Keovongsavang has chosen NRI NOW reporter and publisher Sandy Seoane to serve as her mentor. Seoane hopes to share her small business, media, reporting and marketing knowledge to help the senior gain insight and success in her own endeavor.
“I was disconnected from my peers, my teachers, and in a way, even my family,” Keovongsavang said regarding her reason for choosing the project. “I thought this podcast would be a great way to open myself and many others up.”
“I think right now, specifically, there’s such a negative stigma on mental illness, and people don’t realize how much it is affecting everyone,” Keovongsavang said. “Social dynamics and relationship dynamics are overlooked a lot and we all have different ‘norms’ in our livelihoods.”
Keovongsavang noted that she hopes to launch the first segment of the podcast covering those topics in early December.
“I will be using this platform to expose these struggles that we all think we’re going through alone,” she said.
For the first episode, Keovongsavang plans to record responses of her peers to the questions, “What is the most important thing happening in my life right now” and “Where am I struggling and can’t ask for help?”
“These questions hold a lot of weight, but that’s my purpose,” she said. “They can be heavy answers or they can simply be ‘my math quiz,’ because we are all struggling with something different and all of this can be affecting your mental health. Even if we don’t realize it we are all hurting ourselves in a way.”
English language arts teacher Lindsay Aromin serves as the high school’s coordinator for the program.
“The seniors are very excited to be working with professionals in their respective fields and I have already heard some wonderful stories from the meetings that students have had with mentors thus far,” Aromin said in a letter to mentors.
Students are required to complete 15 hours of fieldwork with their mentors along with the research papers, and Seoane and Keovongsavang have already begun collaborating, with the podcast name expected to drop on social media in the coming days.
Seoane said she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the ambitious senior.
“I am really proud to start this project and I can’t wait to see where it takes me,” Keovongsavang said.
Watch for more on Keovongsavang’s project and links to the podcast once it goes live on NRI NOW.