Evans High graduate works to tackle mental health crisis
Teen plans to become psychiatrist
By Jerry Askin - Reporter
Posted: 5:01 AM, September 10, 2018 Updated: 5:01 AM, September 10, 2018
ORLANDO, Fla. - A recent Evans High School graduate is working to raise awareness about mental health in the black community.
Kena Francois, 17, completed high school in May and now attends Seminole State College. She said her goal is to eventually attend medical school and some day become a psychiatrist.
She believes mental health is a serious issue and said that, oftentimes, it's something people don't talk about, especially in the black community. She said it's real and the effects from it can be tough on children when they get older.
“A child who has experienced a lot of trauma, whether it’s seeing a lot of physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, or having parents who are drug addicts, or having to go to foster homes, group homes and having, seeing your people go to jail -- you can’t tell me a child won’t feel depressed,” Francois said, not describing her situation, but speaking in general terms.
Francois said she once suffered from depression while growing up because she wasn't always understood by her parents or her peers. She moved to America from Haiti when she was 6 years old and finished her senior year of high school in a single-parent household. Francois said her mother worked three jobs to make ends meet.
Francois told News 6 she's always wanted to help people in the black community see the value of getting a handle on their mental health and know that it's OK to speak up.
She said she's even more encouraged to pursue her passion based on the recent high-profile incidents nationwide in which people suffering from mental health have hurt others and hurt themselves.
Francois credits programs such as the United Foundation of Central Florida, an after-school program, for giving her the motivation to attend college and work to pursue her career.
She told News 6 she wants to encourage everyone, especially minorities, to try to further their education beyond high school.
“In today’s society, especially for minorities, getting an education is the golden ticket to be successful in life," Francois said. "Whether it's the military, trade school, technical school -- do something. Don’t just sit around."
Francois said she's grateful for the motivation she's received from her mentors and her mother, who have always been by her side.
“Made my dreams seem achievable before it became a reality,” Francois said.
She said she's humbled to be the first in her family to finish high school and the first to attend college.
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