I am so grateful for all of the support I have received throughout my journey, and it has empowered me to share my experiences so I can help be a voice for others who may be struggling.
Simone Biles’ impact on mental health continues to reverberate
Olympic gymnast Simone Biles removed herself from competition in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. She had no idea the impact that decision would make in the conversation around mental health.
As a young adult, I can’t help but notice that people often identify me for the medals I have won. I get it: They see me on TV doing gymnastics and that is who and what I am to them. Don’t get me wrong, I am so lucky to have people who follow my career and cheer me on. They mean everything to me. I understand why they ask me about my medals, how much work I put into training and how much fun it must all be.
But I’d also like people to know – better yet understand – that gymnastics is what I do, it’s not who I am. From a very young age, my mom instilled in me the importance of being the best Simone I can be. As a person, in and out of the gym. This is why I’ve really enjoyed when people move past the medals and ask me about my journey, because then I get to talk to them as a person. I can share with them that, simply put, life is hard. For all of us.
USA TODAY’s Women of the Year: Simone Biles is an inspiration, whether competing or ‘pushing mental health to the forefront’
Foster care is hard, confusing, scary
I was introduced to the foster care system at a young age, and it was really challenging for me. Foster care is hard for everyone. It takes incredible and special people willing to open their homes up to kids who don’t have one. But even in the best and most well-intentioned foster care environments, it’s still incredibly hard, confusing and scary.
Looking back, I think one of the most critical parts to my foster care experience was the important role adults played in my life at such a vulnerable time. The love and support I received from my parents who unselfishly adopted my sister and me when I was 6 years old changed the entire trajectory of my life. Today, I recognize just how important it is for children, particularly those who face a lot of hard things, to have a consistent, caring adult throughout their childhood.
Last year, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a public health advisory regarding the challenges facing today’s youth and highlighted the significance of a supportive adult in child development. More specifically, he noted, “research shows that the most important thing a child needs to be resilient is a stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.”
From U.S. surgeon general: Our kids’ mental health is as critical as their grades. Here’s how to prioritize both.
I have had the opportunity to travel the world and talk with incredible young people from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences. I’ve been especially moved by the number of people who are doing great things despite the challenges and hardships they face.
Dr. Vivek Murthy talks about mental health
Dr. Vivek Murthy talks about the importance of asking for help and how we might be able to help each other.
One person can change a child’s life
Over the past couple years, I’ve had the pleasure to work with Friends of the Children, a nonprofit organization that works with children who have big dreams but face many obstacles such as foster care involvement, poverty, racism, education inequities and other traumas.
What inspires me most about Friends of the Children is their emphasis on mentorship. They pair each child with a consistent, caring adult called a “Friend,” a trained professional with focus on individualized, relationship-based activities that help build social skills, manage emotions and develop tools that will serve them into adulthood.
Why we issued Racial Equity 2030 challenge: Our children require more than hope
I realize that my life could have turned out very differently. I am so grateful for all of the support I have received throughout my journey, and it has empowered me to share my experiences so I can help be a voice for others who may be struggling. From hosting Friends of the Children on the Gold Over America Tour to dropping in on Zoom calls, I want to encourage the next generation to pursue their dreams no matter their circumstances in life. After all, it only takes one person who believes in a child to help impact their life trajectory.
I am truly honored to be associated with Friends of the Children and I share their excitement for the recent gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott that will allow the organization to serve more youth. It is my hope that everyone who needs a “Friend” can have a Friend so they, too, can be fearless, courageous, achieve their big dreams and have fun while doing it.
Olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles is the youngest person to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Please go to friendsofthechildren.org to learn how your community can benefit from a Friends of the Children chapter.