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Woman uses own experience to spread hope to community

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By Bernadette Lauritzen

When Melissa Schmidt and her Aunt Brenda Kelley knew a change was needed, they created an opportunity for community discussion through a Facebook page called HOLLA, Hope and Love in Los Alamos, one they hope to see grow into a real force of encouragement in the community.
The idea was born after becoming interested in a website that offers similar goals to what HOLLA hopes to do in Los Alamos and that is to offer hope and help. To Write Love on Her Arms, twloha.com, works to offer hope and help, while addressing the stigma of mental health issues.
Born in Los Alamos in 1982, Schmidt went on to live in the big world, experiencing the heartaches of life, that many teens are forced to deal with.
These struggles included the divorce of her parents and confronting issues of sexuality, which led to her dropping out of high school, her senior year.
“Seriously, guys, stay in school, dropping out in January of your senior year is dumb, trust me,” Schmidt said and returned to get her diploma in 2003. “Now I see that my parents’ divorce was probably the best thing for me and my sisters, and being gay isn’t something I chose, and it is not something I am ashamed of.”
Choosing to be happy and accept that part of herself, according to Schmidt, was the greatest gift she gave herself. That gift came as a possibility of having hope — a hope in the life she could see for the future.
Now what she hopes to do is to take the HOLLA approach and extend it into the community, no matter what issues people have to deal with in their own lives. Right now, at least the Facebook page is a safe place for people to come together and be joyous, be grateful, be kind and then spread that throughout the world.
One doesn’t have to have children in this community, to understand what Schmidt calls, the, “it takes a village to raise a child” mentality.
“I’d like to see the adults in town become more proactive in educating themselves and their children about mental health issues, rather than being reactive after a crisis,” Schmidt said. “I think we need to teach them the value of listening before you speak, stop judging people who are different, and loving each person for who they are.”
Those interested can join the Facebook conversation at HOLLA.