Kind Fest kicked off in the Annenberg Forum in Wallis Hall on Thursday and later moved to Annenberg’s School of Communication (ASC). Students had the opportunity to hear from notable mental health speakers and enjoy a variety of food and arts programming.
Annenberg’s Student Services Office hosted the event in partnership with USC student organization The Happy Hour Club, the Annenberg Cross-Cultural Student Association, Men’s Mental Health Initiative and the Public Relations Student Society of America.
“I presented the project as an idea for helping mental health initiatives around campus,” said Saphia Zaman, president and founder of The Happy Hour Club.”I thought [the] organization would be best for students to sort of come together, build that community, get to know each other, but also educating themselves about mental health and learning how to support one another and how to get resources.”
The Happy Hour Club is a student-led mental health awareness organization that provides an accessible space for USC students to discuss and receive education about mental health topics.
“We’re hoping that this will be an annual thing and this is the first of its kind. So hopefully everything goes well and it has a great turnout,” Zaman said. “But we wanted a day of [the] community spreading a chain reaction of kindness, and we thought that could be very needed, especially in September, a suicide prevention month.”
Upon entrance to Kind Fest, students received a free t-shirt on a first-come, first-served basis and began filling seats.
“I just thought it was a really cool event, and I was excited at the fact that it would be about mental health,” said senior journalism student Tamanna Sood.”I think it’s a good start for the school to have events like this.”
Representatives from the Kaleigh Finnie Memorial Endowment Scholarship, which was utilized by Zaman to create The Happy Hour Club, also spoke at the event. Ella Katz, a former Kaleigh Finnie Memorial Scholar and the creator of Annenberg Media segment Ellavate, encouraged students to speak up about under-discussed topics like mental health.
“If any of you have that idea, you feel like there’s something that’s not being talked about, or it’s not being communicated or delivered in a certain way, try it,” Katz said.
Kayla Bergholz spoke on behalf of Rachel’s Challenge, an organization dedicated to preventing school violence started after the death of Rachel Scott in the Columbine shooting. Bergholz concluded the first portion of the event by challenging attendees to pursue the five goals detailed in Scott’s writings.
“Look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness and start your own chain reaction,” Bergholz said.
USC Annenberg undergraduate and graduate students can apply to the Kaleigh Finnie Memorial Endowment scholarship until September 29.
“Our main goal is to have an inclusive environment where all students can have a space to come together and express their identities and experiences, specifically regarding mental health initiatives and experiences, which is really important,” said Annenberg Cross-Cultural Student Association co-president Skyler Pak.
The event continued into the ASC West Lobby following the speaker series. The Annenberg Cross-Cultural Student Association spearheaded the arts side of the event, featuring tables providing materials to make friendship bracelets, Play-Doh and a space for students to socialize. Students indulged in Italian ice and specialty chocolates provided by Happy Ice and Zac’s Sweet Shop.
“Especially as we’re getting into the first few weeks of midterms, people are in need of a break from school,” said Annenberg Cross-Cultural Student Association co-president Nya Menneh. “They should have a space where they can bond, socialize and relax and also just get in touch with their inner child.”
The second part of Kind Fest provided a space for students to listen to others who have taken the initiative in utilizing kindness to make a difference.
“When you go to a school that’s academically rigorous and you have so many things going on, it can be hard to check on yourself and make sure that you’re doing okay,” said freshman journalism student Ayana Gonzalez. “And then before you know it, you are in a place that is really hard to come out of. So I think more events like these across all colleges, not just Annenberg, are super important.”