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Mental health activist invited to the White House

By Shannon Hernandez, May 10, 2022

Cal Poly Pomona communication student Zane Landin was invited to participate in a White House forum as part of his activism work with Active Minds, a nonprofit organization. Active Minds, along with 17 other nonprofits, will be joining MTV’s Mental Health Action Youth Forum in May where they are gathering mental health activists to participate in creating campaigns to promote mental health discussions.

Landin’s life experiences directed him toward a path to making changes in society. He’s passionate about raising awareness for disabilities and mental health and does so using storytelling to drive change—specifically by using his own mental health experiences to normalize speaking about mental health in society.

While being an activist for mental health and disabilities, Landin worked with Active Minds to promote mental health among youth.

Courtesy of Zane Landin

“The application process was simple and after I submitted it, I actually forgot about it,” recalled Landin. “In February I decided to check my spam and found an email saying that I was a semifinalist. After completing the next form, I received an email that same week saying that I was selected. I freaked out. I just couldn’t believe it.”

The two-day forum will feature 18 nonprofits and young mental health activists that were invited to present their campaigns through storytelling to inspire individuals to become involved in mental health.

Landin mentioned the questions for the application were easy. They primarily asked about why mental health is an important topic of discussion and how storytelling is important. He reiterated that telling stories about mental health on the news and in the media can help struggling individuals feel confident in talking about it.

Impostor syndrome is the inability to believe that one’s success is deserved. According to Landin, it was an initial feeling that Landin experienced when he received the invitation to the White House.

As he overcame the feeling of disbelief, he was excited to tell family and friends about this opportunity.

Mental health is very important to Landin as he experienced symptoms from a young age where he constantly felt anger and depression. He described that he’s always been around mental conditions, so seeing a psychiatrist and discussing mental health has always felt normal for him.

“I’m an advocate because I’ve been seeing this my whole life. Being exposed to environments where I have seen people being told they are wrong for feeling the way they do or seeing people not having psychologists to help them is frustrating,” said Landin.

Landin strongly believes that starting a conversation can open many doors in the community. No matter how dark the topic of conversation may be, a ripple effect is the outcome that Landin is looking for to get individuals to share their story without worry of judgment.

Landin felt that he always questioned whether the work he was doing was meaningful. Feeling validation with his invitation to the White House, he knows he is doing something right.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be an activist because you may also go through hardships. There have been times where I also question whether it is worth it, but I’m going to the White House soon so I know it’s worth it and that I can keep doing this and do something bigger than I ever imagined,” said Landin.

There was a recent announcement that Selena Gomez along with the Rare Impact Fund will be joining the upcoming conversations at the forum, to which Landin expressed his excitement and nerves as he is a fan of the singer and actress.

Landin grew up in Chino, California. He attended Walnut High School and growing up, he would regularly see the CLA and thought it was a beautiful sight to see.

“I came to Cal Poly Pomona because of its prestigious reputation, the strong record of diversity and inclusion, the affordability, and mainly because it was close to where I was from,” said Landin.

Landin explained that being at Cal Poly Pomona for six years has played a significant role in creating the relationships he has made, as well as shaping his views of the world. Landin entered as a science and technology major and changed to communication at the start of his fourth year.

“Without Cal Poly, I wouldn’t have found the world of communications,” said Landin.

Landin worked with communication specialist Ashley Jones, who was one of the individuals who inspired him to pursue communication with an emphasis on public relations.

As a communication student, he wanted to combine storytelling with discussions surrounding mental health and disabilities to create a digital publication PositiveVibes Magazine, where the community can be involved in making positive changes.

Landin has been busy with school and his current internship at NASA. He explained how he pictured working at NASA, doing technology-based things, not working with a communications team.

Landin said he discovered the internship at NASA two years ago and had his heart set on it but was not selected. He saw the position open again this year and applied and was selected to join the team.

At NASA, he is a Public Engagement Intern where he does public engagements, outreach and communication work for exoplanets and astrophysics. Landin explained that he also works on social media posts, and collaborates with scientists to work on posters and videos, and many more projects where assistance is needed.

In the future, he expressed that he would love to work at a technology company but, for now, he’s just waiting to see what new direction he will take after graduation.

“I never thought I would be interning at NASA, let alone be invited as a guest to the White House. When I saw people on TV have cool once-in-a-lifetime experiences I always thought, ‘When will that be me?’ and now I am doing those things. I feel so humbled,” said Landin.

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