Last summer, 10-year-old Aviana Dupee started sketching out an afterschool, peer-to-peer mental health program because she’d seen too many classmates struggling. Like a lot of social innovators, she didn’t have funding, but she had a strong vision: “We don’t have safe spaces at our age to discuss hard topics and process them in a fun way, and we need them.”
After Aviana’s mentor encouraged her to apply for the Imagined in Cambridge! Award, she won—and bolstered by that $5,000 grant and access to a new network of innovative, community leaders, her vision of “HEART Jr.” blossomed into something truly special this past year.
“It’s helped some kids feel less alone in what they’re going through, understand others’ experiences, and change the way we see things,” said Aviana.
In addition to weekly exercises like journaling, meditation, and group shares, Aviana brought in an inspiring line-up of guest speakers to connect with students, tapping fellow Imagined in Cambridge! winners Lonnell Wells of Cambridge Bike Give Back and Keith Mascoll of The Triggered Project, as well as Cambridge School Committee Member Ayesha Wilson and Cambridge’s Miss Massachusetts, Katrina Kincade.
We know there’s even more good to come from Aviana and HEART Jr. in 6th grade.
Help find the next Imagined in Cambridge! Award winners! Know someone sparking change in our community? Nominate them! Got an idea? Submit it by Sept. 7.
Aviana Dupee, a 2021 award winner for HEART Jr.
Photo by Tony Rinaldo.