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New York State recognizes Western New York youth for inspirational advocacy efforts

New York State is honoring Angela Colon-Rentas, a Rochester-based Youth Peer Advocate, with the 2022 ‘What’s Great in our State’ Youth/Young Adult Award. 

This award recognizes young people with lived mental health experience who have taken their personal mental health knowledge and experiences to make a difference in their community.

Angela Colon-Rentas entered the juvenile justice system at age 14. This experience helped shape her understanding of the supports that are needed to help young people succeed. She found an internal drive to help support others through similar situations and became a leader in the field of youth peer advocacy. Angela says her mental health experiences pushed her to help other youth find hope in their lives. She is also a champion of culturally competent mental health treatment. She both provides and advocates for bi-lingual services and has encouraged the implementation of more diverse services for minority communities.

“Angela Colon-Rentas shows us ‘What’s Great in Our State’ by taking her past experience and using it as a driving force to support others coping with mental health struggles,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan. “Angela understands the importance of peer support and brings that to her work every day. We thank her for all the ways she is working to improve and advocate for children’s mental health.” 

Angela was presented with the award at the annual ‘What’s Great in our State 2022’ event on May 3rd. The celebration recognizes the individuals and programs that are successfully advancing the cause of children’s mental health in New York State. 

“My experiences in the Juvenile system and as a member of the SWAT Youth Council changed my perspective of life. It taught me leadership skills and ignited a need in me to help others through my life experiences,” said Angela Colon-Rentas. “Not everyone has the privilege to have a positive role model in their life. I feel it is my purpose to be that one positive influence, to help others navigate mental health and transition to Adulthood in a more optimistic manner. My work with Compeer Rochester has given me the platform to do just that. I am strongly committed to breaking the mental health stigma in the minority communities and strive to be an ambassador and set an example to new minority Youth Peer Advisors for generations to come.

What’s Great in Our State’

The ‘What’s Great in Our State’ event was first launched in 2010 and is typically held during Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a national movement that raises awareness about the importance of children’s mental health. The event features a reading of Governor Kathy Hochul’s announcement proclaiming the week as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a ceremony recognizing our honorees, and an art show featuring artwork created by children receiving services from New York State’s mental health system.

The event is sponsored by six New York State agencies and several children’s mental health advocacy organizations: The Office of Mental Health, the Council on Children and Families, the Department of Health, the State Education Department, the Office of Children and Family Services and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, Early Care & Learning Council, Families Together in New York State, Inc., Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness – New York State, New York State Network for Youth Success, Prevent Child Abuse New York, Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Inc., and the Suicide Prevention Center of New York.