A current junior at Gunn High School, Amber Fu has already made a profound impact on the health of her community. Honored as a 2018 Youth Volunteer of the Year award recipient, she has worked hard to create positive change. Amber began raising awareness for mental health when she was in middle school, following heartbreak close to home.

In 2009, a series of suicides swept through the Palo Alto area, shaking the community. “It’s deeply sad,” Amber said, struggling for words. “It’s hard to describe what it actually does to the community.” In the wake of tremendous tragedy, the community began to discuss why these deaths had happened, but few possessed the knowledge needed to prevent future deaths. “[The community] didn’t understand how to help and how to talk about mental illnesses or disorders.”

Inspired to turn her immense sadness into something productive, Amber looked for ways to continue the conversation, and turn it into action.

She began to educate herself on mental illness and suicide prevention measures, in case she ever needed to help a struggling friend or family member. By the time another cluster of suicides struck, Amber had realized the power of knowledge and awareness. Ready to make a difference, she started a chapter of the national organization, Bring Change to Mind, at Gunn High School. The club aims to raise awareness and teach habits that improve mental health. “We talk about how mental health effects family and friends, and what we can do to help create a conversation so that people feel more comfortable talking about the subject,” Amber describes.

While Amber continues to lead her peers towards better mental health through her club, Bring Change to Mind, she has expanded her reach to help the entire community, through the annual Palo Alto Community Health Fair.

For the past 3 years, Amber has played a huge part in bringing the health fair to life. Her club, Bring Change to Mind, has a booth each year and Amber contributes to the event as a whole. With each passing year, Amber’s responsibility has grown under the guidance of Palo Alto Family YMCA Executive Director Lee Pfab, and Board Member Jade Chao. Thanks to her outstanding mentors, she has learned critical leadership and organizational skills throughout the planning process.

The Palo Alto Community Health Fair takes months of planning and tons of hard work, but for Amber, it’s all worth it to see the community come together in the spirit of health. As an added bonus, she is able to take the new skills learned from her Y mentors back to her club at Gunn High School to put on bigger and better events. Amber is excited to reach more students and prevent suicides on a larger scale.

What’s next for Amber? She’s plans to study psychology and neuroscience at a top college or university, to continue making an impact for those with mental illness.