CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Today's youth are dealing with high levels of stress in part due to the pandemic, remote learning, and schools turning into crime scenes.
COPE, Creating Opportunities for People Empowerment, is trying to help youth handle their stress by giving hope, one box at a time.
Layla Allen took a leap of faith and left her nine-to-five job to help young people by creating the network.
"I wanted to dedicate all of my time to only doing work and activities that involved me practicing in my purpose and doing passion work. And that involved working with youth, but then also focusing on relationship building and mental health," Allen said.
Allen created the COPE Network through a social media campaign which was called 31 days of coping.
"I started sharing healthy coping skills, healthy coping mechanisms that youth and their families could adopt into their everyday lives," Allen said. "After the 31 days were up I was literally like 'okay well what do I do next?'"
Allen created coping boxes that contain things that allow youth to explore self-expression like journals, stress balls to relieve anxiety, and bubbles to practice breathing techniques.
The boxes are decorated with positive sayings like "You got this" and "One day at a time."
It was the box that helped 11th grader Da'Vonne Williams get through a challenging time.
"I had online schooling. I was struggling mentally and physically because I had caught COVID and couldn't do anything," Williams said.
"I started crying you know. I was already isolated and you know, I opened it. I had a stress ball, had a journal and I needed the journal at that time because I used all my journals up."
Williams has had several COPE boxes and helps Allen promote the COPE Network as she inspires her peers and adults to understand mental health and not fear it.
For more information on the COPE Network, click here.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.