Youth Stories of Resilience and Survival

A dynamic new installation at the Community Arts Partnership’s ArtSpace in January features the mental health stories of ten local youth.

Samir, by Rayan

“Naming the Unnamable,” curated by local author Bree Barton, will explore the personal journeys of ten young local artists through short film, audio recordings, written text, and visual art. The exhibit opens at the CAP ArtSpace on Gallery Night Friday January 6, where the artists will be present to talk about their work from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. The installation will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday throughout January.

Barton conceived the project after touring the country with her most recent book, Zia Erases the World, a middle grade novel inspired by her childhood depression. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, she met myriad students who talked openly about how they’d struggled—and how they’d survived. Barton envisioned creating a space where young artists could shape their own narratives through different mediums.

“I’ve always been interested in storytelling as a path to healing,” said Barton. “For me, that meant writing. For others, it might be drawing or filmmaking or collage. I gave these young artists a simple prompt: if you could tell us the story of your mental health journey over the last few years, what would you create?”

The result is an unflinching body of work from a diverse group of youth. Folx who self-identify as queer, BIPOC, and neurodiverse take center stage, as well as those with experience of homelessness. Several of the participating artists are members of the Youth Action Board (YAB), a group of youth with experience of homelessness in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

BERETTA., a member of YAB, makes art to capture “moments in life that often go overlooked, unseen, and under-represented due to the stigmatizing nature of themes such as trauma, substance dependency, mental illness, homelessness, and poverty.” The exhibit will showcase her digital collages and the eulogy she wrote for her best friend, a project she dedicates to his memory “and all the other folks we’ve lost in the street community before they could find comfort and home and peace.”

Downward Spiral, by BERETTA.

Hannah, a junior at Ithaca College, will share “an exploration of the psychological impacts of trauma through sound.” Hannah’s sound art heavily reflects their personal traumas, as well as that of their peers. Their goal is to “create a self-reflexive environment where the listener can learn from others’ traumas and sit in the uncomfortable. It’s about keeping an open mind to what others may be going through.”

At Gallery Night on January 6, Rayan will premiere her short film, Samir, the Somali word for “patience.” In Samir, Rayan recreates her experiences living in the Awbare refugee camp in Ethiopia for almost seven years. “This is a really personal project to me,” she said. “It has a lot of memory and meaning behind it.” In the film, which will play on loop in the gallery during open hours, Rayan reads from one of her “most precious journals” to capture the loneliness and isolation of that difficult time.

For high school sophomore Elise, this project has been a “rollercoaster of emotions.” The exhibit will feature her self-portrait and other art pieces, as well as an essay she wrote after losing her dad to suicide. “Although it’s very difficult to talk about my story and my dad,” Elise said, “I find it very refreshing to express my own feelings through art and writing. I hope my work can inspire someone to do the same.”

Untitled, by Elise

“This exhibit will offer no shortage of inspiration,” Barton said. “The art these youth have created is powerful, personal, and profound. I encourage people to move through the installation at their own pace, with an open heart and mind, and full permission to step away as needed.”

Barton hopes the artists’ willingness to engage with difficult themes will catalyze important conversations around mental health. Her goal is for more people, of all ages, to find healthy ways to share whatever it is they’re going through—and to ask for resources and support.

“It’s all about naming the unnamable,” said Barton. “Whether you do it through words or other forms of self expression. These young folx are wildly creative and courageous, and I cannot wait to share their work with the community. They are shining a light in a dark room. In the face of unimaginable loss and trauma, they show us that we, too, can survive.”

This project is made possible, in full, with funding from the SOS grant and Creative Recovery Fund from the Community Arts Partnership and the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

Community Arts Partnership ArtSpace, 110 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca, NY 14850

“This is What Healing Looks Like”

The Building Ourselves Through Sisterhood and Service (B.O.S.S.) Peer Mentorship Program needs your support! Our Cornell University group is fundraising for its 4th annual Mental Health Summit November 9-11.


Please consider making a donation today! Click here to make a quick contribution:

B.O.S.S. is a peer mentorship program for womxn of color at Cornell University. Our organization provides participants with tailored opportunities to connect and support one another as we navigate Cornell University and serve the greater Ithaca community.

A marquis event for B.O.S.S. is our Annual Mental Health Conference. For the past five years, B.O.S.S. has hosted a day-long mental health conference for womxn of color on campus, for the past two as a stand-alone organization in collaboration with many others including Cornell Health, Women of Color Coalition, and other groups.

The summit has given B.O.S.S. the platform to create a safe space for womxn of color to openly discuss their mental health, gain new techniques to better practice self-care, and discuss mental wellbeing within communities of color.

As a continuation on last year ’s Mental Health Summit, B.O.S.S. plans on expanding that day-long cornerstone summit to a multi-day summit. Our theme this year will be “This is What Healing Looks Like.”

This year, our overall goal is to explore ways to heal and grow within ourselves and practice techniques to establish a state of serenity and balance, even when we have gone through difficult phases within our academic, professional, or personal lives.

Similar to last year, we will extend invitations to surrounding schools, such as Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College, and other Ivy League institutions to hear about their best practices.

Additionally, we will facilitate workshops on topics such as body image and self-care, have bonding events, host community dinners, and create spaces for conversation as well as quiet reflection to suit a variety of participants.

Your contributions to such an important event, will allow for B.O.S.S. to be able to put on an even more rewarding and healing. With you donation, B.O.S.S. will be able to put on an even more rewarding and healing experience for womxn of color. Donations will be used to cover associated conference costs such as workshop material costs, speaker expenses, space rentals, food expenses, and relaxation station costs, among other things.

Thank you!

—By Amber Haywood

Amber Haywood is the co-president of Building Ourselves Through Sisterhood and Service (B.O.S.S.)


Cupcake Joy, 2018 Edition

Enjoy a photo gallery from the 3rd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest organized by The Sophie Fund in the Ithaca Commons on October 13, 2018.


Tough competition, true temptation!



The Grand Prize Winner: “Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes” with a cored whole strawberry filled with salted butterscotch, topped by a brown sugar cream cheese frosting, decorated with a chocolate fan, sliced strawberry, mint leaves, and a mini chocolate strawberry macaron.



Grand Prize Winner Zoe Dubrow enters her cupcakes at the registration desk



Zoe Dubrow receives the Grand Prize Award from Debbie Lazinski of GreenStar Natural Foods Market ($250 GreenStar gift certificate)



Natalie McCaskill-Myers’s pumpkin apple spice cupcakes with black cat decorations



Rhonda Williamsee’s mint chocolate “cocoa coma” cupcakes


Version 2

Ella Kain’s lemon cupcakes with buttercream frosting



Mary Sever-Schoonmaker “If You Like Pina Colada” cupcakes



Kyra O’Toole’s Youth Award-winning chocolate cheesecake cupcakes with an Oreo crust



Aušra Milano’s amaretto chocolate cupcakes decorated with a flower arrangement



Contest producer Mickie Quinn confers with student volunteer from Cornell University



All in the family



Handle with care!



Let the judging begin!



Drum roll, please! The Finalists!



VIP Judge: Yuko Jingu of Akemi Food



VIP Judge: Melissa Kenny of Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop



VIP Judge: Daleila Norman of GreenStar Natural Foods Market



VIP Judge: Kathleen Sherman Morrow of Felicia’s Atomic Brewhouse and Bakery



Kitana Scofflaw of The House of Merlot



Sgt. Cupcake Rob Natoli

SingTrece & Kenneth McLaurin sing their Ithaca rendition of “New York, New York”


Nellia Mattson

Nellia Mattson performs with her ukulele



Volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Central New York Chapter


apo volunreers

Volunteers from Cornell University’s Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter



Volunteers from Cornell Minds Matter



Matthew Jirsa, co-president of Cornell Minds Matter



Winnie Ho, president of Cornell University’s Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter



Charles Niven of the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County

The Sophie Fund’s 2017 Campaign

Please consider making a donation today to advance The Sophie Fund’s work on mental health initiatives for young people in the Ithaca–Tompkins County community.

Sophie Fund Logo

We are working with state, county, and city officials, local mental health agencies, student groups, and college administrators to help our young people with mental disorders live safe and fulfilling lives.

Among our projects so far:

  • Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest to raise awareness and funds for mental health initiatives
  • The Watershed Declaration by 18 organizations, pledging to intensify local suicide prevention efforts
  • Launch of Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition by more than 40 local leaders
  • Campaign to bring Zero Suicide Initiative to Tompkins County
  • The Sophie Fund Author Series: “Readings on Mental Health,” at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca
  • “Life Coach” initiative to provide local resources and support to college students on mental health leaves of absence

100% of donated monies go directly to local

non-profit organizations supporting mental health

To make a donation today, click here to be directed to The Sophie Fund donation page at the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

Thank You!

The Sophie Fund’s Advisory Group

The Sophie Fund is proud to announce the formation of its Community Advisory Group, consisting of four individuals with strong experience in health services, civil society, social advocacy, and college campus life in the Greater Ithaca area.


The Sophie Fund was established in April 2016 in memory of Sophie Hack MacLeod, a Cornell University art student who succumbed to her battle with depression in Ithaca on March 26, 2016. The focus for the fund’s work is supporting mental health initiatives aiding young people.

The members of the Community Advisory Group, which will provide guidance for The Sophie Fund’s financial grants and advocacy initiatives, are:

David Evelyn, MD, is vice president for Medical Affairs at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, New York. He previously served as vice president for Medical Affairs at A. O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, New York. He earned his medical degree from the Robert Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, and a master of public health degree from Columbia University. He is a member of the American Association of Family Physicians, American College of Physician Executives, and the Statewide Steering Committee on Quality Initiatives of the Healthcare Association of New York State.

Aliana Heffernan is a New York City-based marketing associate for Condeco Software, an international workspace technology company, and a freelance writer and social media consultant. She is the Class of 2014 Facebook manager for the Cornell Alumni Association, a member of the NYC Cornellians Board, and a Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador.

James (“Jim”) Johnston served for 40 years as president and chief executive officer of Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, which supports, promotes, and strengthens the wellbeing of individuals and families by providing high-quality, accessible mental health care and related social services with a particular sensitivity toward the needs of children.

Nicole LaFave is the program coordinator for Community Service and Leadership Development at the Cornell University Public Service Center. She is a member of the Ithaca Board of Education and the Ithaca City Community Police Review Board. She holds a BA degree from Ithaca College in Sociology with a concentration in juvenile criminal studies and race and ethnic relations.

The Sophie Fund’s mission is to make a tangible impact on the wellbeing of young people facing mental health challenges in the Greater Ithaca community, by providing funding for effective initiatives, being a catalyst to raise awareness about mental health, and supporting suicide prevention efforts.

The Sophie Fund is a donor-advised fund within the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. Established in 2000, the foundation is led by Chief Executive Officer George Ferrari, Jr. The foundation is home to 95 funds supporting a broad range of organizations in the areas of education, environment, arts and culture, health and human services, and community building. Sophie’s parents, Scott MacLeod and Susan Hack, serve as the fund’s donor advisors.