Brittany Cannon and Danielle Padron were Woodlands-area dance and cheer coaches in 2015 when their students came to class in shock: They had just discovered one of their schoolmates committed suicide.
“Those are faces you never want to see,” Padron said. “They were just so lost and had so many questions.”
Unable to answer their students’ questions or provide any type of explanation, the two women decided to take action in hopes of getting to the root of the problem to prevent future suicides.
In partnership with Conroe ISD, the My Person Foundation is a mentorship program Cannon and Padron founded that year, which serves to promote open dialogue for students at participating schools.
“It’s like a big sister/big brother type of group because we’re not judgmental,” Cannon said. “We’re not their coach or a teacher or a family member; we’re an outsider. We all struggled with something in high school so they can relate to us—nobody is alone.”
With a parent’s permission, students can attend monthly meetings the organization holds during the school day to discuss a variety of topics based on student requests. Divided into groups by gender, the first meeting was held in April at Conroe High School, which 200 girls attended and requested more than 80 topics to be discussed at future meetings.
“We went through the cards to figure out what the most requested topics were, and we had 10 cards asking about abortion and another eight asking about molestation,” Cannon said. “We thought they were going to ask us about things like acne or divorce, so we quickly realized that we weren’t equipped to handle this stuff.”
To ensure mentors are prepared for every situation a student might bring to their attention, all mentors must now go through a lengthy training process with both CISD and the organization. Subjects discussed during meetings can range from mental health, alcohol and bullying to eating disorders, sex and abuse.
“I was born and raised here so it makes me sad that issues that were going on 15 years ago are still happening now,” Cannon said. “I think people just tend to turn a blind eye to it—they know it’s happening but they just want to pretend it isn’t.”
The organization has an extensive network of resources, including Montgomery County Youth Services, Tri-County Behavioral Health Care and Eating Recovery Center, The Woodlands, for students to get the help they need.
Now with 16 mentors, the foundation has expanded to The Woodlands High School and will soon begin holding meetings at Knox Junior High School.
Cannon and Padron said they hope to expand the My Person Foundation to the rest of CISD and to other school districts. However, they need more qualified mentors to do so.
The founders said although being a mentor is a taxing job, every time a students says, “You saved my life,” it is all worthwhile.
“We’ve created such a bubble out here, and we’re so afraid to step out of it but this is happening—statistics have proven it,” Padron said. “It’s time to pop the bubble and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”