Teen Mental Health is a Priority for this Accomplished Grad

  • 6/1/2022 1:02:00 PM

This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about outstanding graduating seniors in the Class of 2022.

NikitaWith all the pressure to make friends, get good grades and get into college, high school is often a stressful experience. Throw in a worldwide pandemic that’s lasted for years, and it’s no surprise that students are feeling it. “Especially with COVID, everybody has been so much more stressed,” says Nikita Manyak, who recently graduated from Oak Park High School. “People were isolated from each other, and a lot of us feel like we lost two years of socializing and learning who we are.”

It’s an issue Nikita is actively involved in addressing. As a peer counselor for all four years of high school, she helped arrange speakers and activities about mental health and ensured that fellow students had someone to talk to. “For me, school is not just about the academics,” she says. “If you get a bad grade, it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, it’s your mental health that matters, and it’s the person that matters.” 

In addition to her C22logomental health work, Nikita volunteered to teach English to Spanish-speaking children, ran weekly “Friendship Circles” for special needs kids, and organized school blood drives. She also served as the student member of her local school board, where she influenced decisions on maintaining remedial math classes and establishing a bell schedule that works best for students. 

This fall, Nikita will be studying nursing at UCLA. It’s a career path she chose after spending lots of time in hospitals with family members. Her mom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was a toddler, Nikita2and her eight-year-old cousin is a leukemia survivor. “I felt like the nurses were the superheroes because they were always by your side, and they made sure that everything was OK,” she says. “My family has had some really great experiences with nurses, and I’ve always wanted to be that person. I just found them so inspiring and so kind.” 

Her family members’ health issues also inspired Nikita to help in the effort to find a cure for their ailments. As a volunteer for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, she’s raised thousands of dollars toward this goal.

As Nikita celebrates her graduation during such a tumultuous time, she has this advice for young people who may be feeling overwhelmed. “If it gets too hard, please, find somebody to reach out to. There are so many people ready and willing to help us. We just need to say when we need help.”

Free assistance for anyone struggling with mental health issues is available from Ventura County Behavioral Health at 866-998-2243 or www.vcbh.org


More Inspiring Stories about the Ventura County Class of 2022

  • Maggie Melendez - Simi Valley High School

    First-Generation College Student Has Her Eye on Career with the FBI

  • Hans Bach-Nguyen - Adolfo Camarillo High School

    Harvard-Bound Grad is an Advocate for Equity in Education


  • Alex Loza - Foothill Technology High School

    Student’s “Beautiful Journey” is Leading to a Bright Future


  • Nikita Manyak - Oak Park High School

    Teen Mental Health is a Priority for this Accomplished Grad


  • Carolina Martinez - Santa Paula High School

    Daughter of Migrant Workers is Headed to UC Berkeley


  • Kendall Brown - Thousand Oaks High School

    This Grad Bounces Back when Things Don’t Go as Planned