Santa Barbara Independent 5/12/22

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SeaVees x Mental Wellness Center

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ART THERAPY: Harding Elementary students were blindfolded as they painted on the second portion of this therapeutic art project, and were advised to focus on their feelings about the future.

HEALTHY KICKS: High school students, including Gabe Munoz (above) worked with S.B.-based shoe brand SeaVees on designs to promote mental health.


he Santa Barbara–based shoe brand SeaVees has partnered with the Santa Barbara Mental Wellness Center to create a shoe inspired by mental health awareness, working with students from the center’s Wellness Connection Council and agreeing to donate 10 percent of the shoe’s sales to the center.

Students Model Mental Health Awareness Sneaker by Jun Starkey Students from the council, made up of area high school students, were involved in the advertising aspect of the shoes, modeling for the official promotional pictures of the shoes that can be seen on the SeaVees website. The council focuses on destigmatizing mental health among young people through education and empowerment. Gabe Munoz, a junior at San Marcos High School, was one of the council members who modeled for the SeaVees shoe launch. “I thought it would be fun to be the face of something I’m proud of,” Munoz said. He joined the council his freshman year, following in the footsteps of his sister, and said working on the council through the pandemic has allowed him to address anxiety and depression among students. “I think doing this has helped a lot with my mental health,” Munoz said. “It definitely helped a lot with my communication skills.” Though SeaVees is a national shoe brand, their flagship store is based out of Santa Barbara. Rachel Bacal, content and com-

munity manager for SeaVees, said the idea for the shoe was developed at the height of the pandemic, and it was always intended to be a community collaboration. After taking about a year to complete, the shoes officially launched in March 2022. “We always want to make sure we’re giving back to the community,” Bacal said. She also said she was very impressed by the dedication of the connection council, calling them the “voices of the campaign,” from start to finish. “It’s been amazing to have [the Wellness Connection Council] take part in the creative process.” For the design aspect of the shoe, SeaVees collaborated with Instagram personality Carissa Potter Carlson, who runs the account @peopleiveloved. Carlson wrote the phrase “You got this” on the outside heel and “I got this” on the inside sole, as well as a small drawing of a hand with her “People I’ve Loved” logo written inside. The bottoms of the sneakers are a dark-green shade, the same color as the green ribbon internationally known as the symbol for mental health awareness. Bacal said Carlson has a “raw, sincere approach to talking about emotion,” which the SeaVees team felt would pair nicely with the message the shoe was meant to convey. Annmarie Cameron, CEO of the Mental Wellness Center, said fundraising was never a main focus for the project, but she was grateful the students were given the opportunity to participate in the project. “Inspiring curiosity and passion is a bigger objective than fundraising, though we are grateful for the contributions,” she said.



‘Take That, COVID!’

wenty 4th-grade students from Harding Elementary—suited up in aprons, boots, and goggles — prepared themselves for the inevitable splashes of paint as one student pulled a massive slingshot full of paint back before letting go. In unison, the students shouted, “Take that, COVID!”

second canvas, set up about 20 feet away from the slingshot, was about envisioning the future, and students were given special goggles that blacked out their vision to help them focus their intentions. “We want you to focus on the feeling,” O’Brien told the group of 4th graders. “When we close our eyes, it allows us to have a different experience.” Harding psychologist Jill McGonigle said this project was all about allowing students to process whatever emotions had been brought on by the pandemic and express them in a productive way. “[We wanted to] give a voice to each child’s lived experience of COVID and acknowledge how it has impacted them, too,” McGonigle said. “We intended to create something special and meaningful together to honor their stories and memorialize this time in their lives.” The first step of the project involved McGonigle going into an individual class and explaining the project to students, giving each student a small square of paper to write words or draw pictures that represent how they felt during the height of the pandemic. Those small pieces of paper were then printed onto a canvas, allowing students to fling the paint directly onto their drawings. Some drawings had pictures of Zoom lessons, while other kids wrote about how happy they felt spending more time with their families. Other drawings depicted graves or family members they had lost to COVID-19. “Many students have lost family members to COVID. Many felt very isolated and fearful during lockdown,” McGonigle said. “It was truly a cathartic and therapeutic experience to acknowledge them in this way and give a voice to their stories.” n

Harding Elementary Students Sling Paint in Therapeutic Project by Jun Starkey Students at Harding Elementary School were given a chance to tackle their emotions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning with both a hands-on slingshot and blindfolded painting projects late last month. Students were barely able to contain their excitement as each of their peers pulled back the slingshot, each sitting on the edge of their seat and cheering loudly whenever the slingshot was let go. Harding Elementary Principal Veronica Binkley said this project was created to allow students to process whatever they had experienced during the pandemic, whether positive or negative. All students from Transitional Kindergarten through 6th grade at the elementary school participated in the project, totaling about 270 students. Dr. Sean O’Brien, a consultant for the STEAM program, and Luke Lamar, a local artist, guided the students through the project, giving them direction and encouragement whenever needed. The first canvas with the slingshot set up was about “letting go,” and Binkley even encouraged students to shout, “Take that, COVID!” as they let the slingshot go. The INDEPENDENT.COM

MAY 12, 2022