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News 2 > Global Student Prize - Finalists > 2023 Finalists Global Student Prize > Cherrial Odell

Cherrial Odell

19 Jul 2023
United States of America
2023 Finalists Global Student Prize

Although Cherrial had a very traumatic upbringing, she has learned to embrace her adversity for what it taught her and who it helped her become. Neglect in early childhood meant spells under the care of Child Protective Services – and later, Cherrial would witness her father’s suicidally depressive episodes, substance abuse and extreme rage. By age thirteen, when her father was hospitalized, she spiraled into a deep depression and attempted to take her own life twice. 

The situation only improved when Cherrial came into contact with the Inspiring Children Foundation – a charity that lifts up underprivileged youth with a restorative mental health and wellness program involving mentoring, tennis, entrepreneurship, and leadership development. This provided the environment and the tools to help Cherrial heal herself from depression and anxiety, as well as improving her relationship with her parents. She went from failing 8th grade to getting straight As in high school and becoming a nationally ranked tennis player. Since then, this reversal has spurred Cherrial to help make the tools that saved her life available to others for free. She has helped lead many teams as part of the Inspiring Children Foundation’s Project Driven Learning program, and during her two gap years she was able to help run the organization. 

When Cherrial started her studies at Stanford University, she immediately saw that a lot of students there were in pain. In her first year, three people died by suicide: anxiety, depression, exhaustion and self-medication were everywhere. In response, Cherrial created “Wellness Buddies”, an informal community to inspire mental health conversations and activities on campus. She would invite people to engage in activities that benefit mental health and wellbeing, such as meditation, yoga, card games, and open dialogue – pieces of what Cherrial had experienced at the Inspiring Children Foundation. As she saw the demand, she began building the program out so that it could reach more students, with regular programming, a weekly newsletter, and partnerships with the existing mental health resources on campus. At Stanford alone the club has reached over 1,000 students, and the “Wellness Buddies” program has now expanded to universities such as Brown, Clark Atlanta, and UNLV. Additionally, Cherrial has become certified as a peer-to-peer mental health counselor at Stanford and the Inspiring Children Foundation: for the last six years she has taken countless calls and texts to help young people when they are in crisis. 

If Cherrial wins the Global Student Prize, she hopes to use the funds to partner with Chegg and expand her online mental health community to college campuses all over the world. This would arm college students everywhere with a plug-and-play mental health tools program, as well as new ways to connect with others. She would also use a small portion of the funding to amplify her existing tools with an online marketing campaign, so that more people are reached. 

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