Instead of spending her summer break sleeping in late, relaxing by the pool, or stressing about what it is going to be like going to a new school for 5th grade next year, 10-year-old Gracie Parker is using her extra free time to continue to advocate for mental health resources for her classmates.
In September of 2022, Gracie made her first trip to D.C. to speak at the First Annual Trail of Truth in front of the Capitol to raise awareness about Youth Mental Health and lives lost due to substance use disorder. That trip ignited a spark that has inspired Gracie to speak to community leaders and at public forums, even garnering the attention of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley when she was invited to speak at a mental health town hall he hosted in Cherokee.
Gracie has spoken to North Carolina Senators and House Representatives, at school board meetings, County Commissioner meetings, and town council meetings — all with the goal of making sure elected leaders understand the urgent need for funding to ensure trauma counselors are available to kids her age.
Gracie lost her mom when she was just 6 months old because of drugs and her dad has not been part of her life because of drugs and incarceration. Gracie is raised by her grandparents.
Gracie realized in 3rd grade that she was not alone in dealing with trauma in her life after speaking with fellow classmates. Substance abuse is just one of the many traumas our kids today are dealing with.
And then, at the end of 3rd grade, her school lost the funding for trauma counselors put in place during COVID and so will most schools by the end of 2024.
That is when she decided to speak out about the youth mental health crisis in our state and country and the urgent need to have trauma counselors in all schools, especially at the elementary school level.
“We are spending over $280 Billion a year on Intervention like detox, rehab, jail, etc just for substance use disorder-related cases alone in America,” Gracie said at the Youth-led Youth Mental Health Help Rally she organized in Franklin in April. “Instead of spending all this money on intervention, we should be providing us kids with the help they need by providing funding for trauma counselors in all schools, a small amount to pay now vs billions of dollars over and over later.”
Gracie’s “us kids” motto was the motivation behind the name of the nonprofit she and her grandparents are in the process of launching — “Why Us Kids?”
Elected officials aren’t the only ones Gracie is speaking to. She is working hard to ensure that anyone and everyone with the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of children hear her story. From Rotary Clubs to the Vaya Health Mental Health Task Force — Gracie wants all hands on deck to help kids like her who are struggling.
Gracie is taking her message back to Washington D.C. this September to once again speak at the 2nd Annual Trial of Truth on September 23rd. While in D.C., Gracie plans to meet with national leaders like Congressman Chuck Edwards and others to let them know the importance of providing resources for children now before it is too late.
Gracie’s grandmother launched a Go Fund Me to help raise money to cover the expenses to get Gracie to Washington D.C. for the event and the opportunity to speak to other legislators in the US House and Senate.
To help support Gracie on her journey to DC, you can donate to her Go Fund Me Page HERE.