Bellport HS student honored for mental health initiative

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Center, Bellport High School senior Alexis Spence was recognized during the Feb. 26 board of education meeting and is pictured with (l-r) South Country Central School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani, Board of Education President E. Anne Hayes and Principal Timothy Hogan.
Bellport High School senior Alexis Spence was awarded the Susanne Smoller Commitment to Youth Advocacy Award by New York State PTA President Lorey Zaman for promoting an annual Mental Health Awareness Week at the high school.  
Bellport High School will hold this annual event on April 27-May 1.
Alexis was also recently invited to the New York State PTA Legislative Summit and Lobby Day at the Capitol Building in Albany where she received a NYS Assembly citation and NYS PTA scholarship. While in Albany, Alexis lobbied New York State Senator Monica Martinez and NYS Assemblyman Joe DeStefano from Suffolk County’s third district, which includes the South Country Central School District, for increased state funding to support mental health awareness services for students, a ban on all flavored tobacco and vaping products, and opposition to legalization of recreational marijuana. She also lobbied for increased state funding totaling $2.1 billion to support these causes.
During the Feb. 26 South Country Board of Education meeting, Bellport High School Principal Timothy Hogan introduced Alexis to the board where she explained her goals for mental health awareness in schools. Alexis said her goal during the New York State PTA Legislative Summit and Lobby Day was to work toward acquiring more funding for mental health programs in the state. She reported that New York and Virginia are currently the only states that require mental health awareness programs in the United States, and a personal goal is to lobby for all states to provide discussion and programs for students. 
“It is estimated that eight million deaths are caused globally a year by mental health related issues, which is a really scary number that can be decreased,” Alexis said. “And it starts with the funding and discussion in schools.”