After graduating from UCW High School in the spring of 2019, Shamiya Griffin made her way to the state of Washington later that summer to begin her undergraduate career at Whitman College. Whitman is a small, residential liberal arts college set in the town of Walla Walla, where several other UCW High School alumni have called home for their undergraduate careers.

But Shamiya is the first UCW High School alumni and Whitman student to serve as a Resident Assistant (RA) at the college’s newest “interest house” called the Mental Health and Wellness House. At Whitman, interest houses are large houses situated in neighborhoods that border the college campus. Anywhere between four to ten students reside in each interest house, although additional students may be a part of the interest house’s community that comes together on a weekly basis for a meal or to help run a program related to the house’s objective.

As its name suggests, the Wellness House aims to promote students’ emotional wellbeing through providing an environment and community rich with knowledge about mental health and opportunities for self-care. Shamiya first got involved with the Wellness House before its founding, when she reached out to a professor on campus to talk about her mental health. 

“Back in our spring semester…when I came back for my sophomore year second semester, I realized I was having a lot of trouble with my mental health. I reached out to Dr. Rae… and I realized that a lot of other people of color [and] people that I knew were having trouble with mental health as well during that time. And I really believe that most of my issues came from being home so long with my family, and coming back to this school, it just instantly was all unfamiliar again,” explained Shamiya.

“I was telling [Dr. Rae] how I personally would like to do more about the mental health crisis that we were going through on campus, and she told me that she wanted to do something as well, and that she was actually planning on funding a house on campus because she wanted to be surrounded by wellness, and I was instantly and immediately interested in it,” said Shamiya. “After talking to me, she knew that I would be the perfect person for the position, starting out as the first RA of this house, so she encouraged me to apply to be an RA, and we just went from there.”

You can read more about Shamiya’s work with the Wellness House, and mental health on Whitman’s campus in general, here. We are so proud of Shamiya for being a pioneer in fostering environments that center students’ mental wellbeing on her campus. She is a true leader in expressing vulnerability, in seeking to serve her community, and in caring for herself and others. The UChicago Charter School wishes the Wellness House at Whitman College the best of luck in its founding year!