TJ Minds Matter hosts Fall Festival

TJ Minds Matter plans a period of de-stressing activities to celebrate the end of the first quarter.


Claire Wilson

Sophomores Abena Kyereme-tuah (far left), Tanisha Pagadala and Natalie Wu laugh as the use chopsticks to stack dice on top of each other. “For me, it was nice that we were all able to go to the same eighth period and hang out and have fun,” Tanisha Pagadala said.

Claire Wilson, Staff Writer

TJ Minds Matter held its first-ever Fall Festival during eighth period on Wednesday, Oct. 30 to help students relax at the end of a stressful first quarter. 

TJ Minds Matter is Jefferson’s branch of the Our Minds Matter program created by the Josh Anderson Foundation in 2016. The organization was founded in 2012, in response to a Fairfax County Public Schools student named Josh Anderson taking his own life. Josh Anderson was a student at South Lakes High School who was caught with marijuana twice. While he appeared to be handling the consequences well externally, his mental health was in poor condition. He committed suicide in March 2009. 

“The [previous] school psychologist also happened to be on the board of the Josh Anderson Foundation, and as the Josh Anderson Foundation created Minds Matter, we adopted that and changed our name to TJ Minds Matter,” Jefferson social worker Danielle Armstrong said.

Initially, the Josh Anderson Foundation operated primarily as a nonprofit promoting a cause. However, in 2016, the Our Minds Matter program was created. It is a student-led program of the Josh Anderson Foundation that strives to provide students with more resources about mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding it. 

“I think having these peer interactions [and] advocating for mental health can be really important in helping the students realize that it’s important, and realizing that they can talk to about it,” TJ Minds Matter Director of Policy junior Eden Ethington said. 

In previous years, TJ Minds Matter primarily spent their time planning two events during the school year: Stress Less Laugh More Week, which is traditionally held before APs at Jefferson, and Mental Health Awareness Week in February. However, instead of focusing on mental health for only two weeks a year, TJ Minds Matter is opting to have monthly events. 

“We would spend almost the entirety of the year planning these two weeks, and then students expressed concern that it was only two weeks a year, why aren’t we focusing on it all year,” Armstrong said.

At Jefferson, most of these de-stressing activities are held during eighth period to accommodate the busy schedules and long commutes of Jefferson students that would otherwise prevent them from participating. 

“We have to provide, almost make students participate in wellness activities because if we just tell them [to participate], they come back with ‘I don’t have time for that,’” Armstrong said.

Wednesday, Oct. 30 marked the first time TJ Minds Matter held the Fall Festival, in order to celebrate both the end of the quarter and Halloween. The club members provided fun games and crafts such as origami for students to do for relaxation. Students from every grade level came to enjoy the activities, eat food, and hang out with their friends.

“One thing that we’ve been trying to work on this whole year is that there are very few guys that are in the clubs,” Ethington said. “There tends to be more of a stigma around mental illness for males, so we wanted to create a range of activities that were more diverse.”

With the monthly themes and the recent decision of the PTSA to fund TJ Minds Matter, the club plans to hold more events such as this at Jefferson in the future.

“We actually finally got funding from PTSA so they will fund all of our monthly activities which is awesome because it means we can do so much more,” Ethington said.