Mia Modafferi is an 11th Grader at Taconic Hills High School and lives in Philmont, NY. She is an artist and an active member of Mentor USA's Youth Ambassador Network at the high school. Through this involvement, she was chosen to travel to Washington D.C. to represent Columbia County at Mentor Foundation’s Shatter the Myth rally held January 24th at the House of Sweden as part of National Alcohol and Drug Facts Week.
From the time Mia was very young, she was a competitive swimmer highly ranked for her age and had been considering going into swimming as a career. However, after 10 years, she suffered a career-ending shoulder injury and had to re-assess her future.
“The shoulder injury was holding me back,” she said. “I had to work through it and although it made me really sad, I had to stop competing.”
Mia credits her ability to cope and move beyond swimming to a variety of things. First, to her mom, who has been raising Mia on her own since Mia was 3 years old. Her mom is a huge role model, not only because she works with the developmentally disabled, but because she “has been through some really difficult things while still raising me and putting me first,” Mia said.
In addition, she said she started therapy when she was 11 and learned coping mechanisms through talking to someone who wasn’t so personal to her. She said she strongly believes that society doesn’t always support those who seek this kind of help.
I’ve gotten great support, but not everyone else does."
She also credits art, which has helped her recover and cope. Her mom studied art growing up and there had always been art in Mia’s life. When she had to give up swimming, she began to hone her focus. She is currently the vice president of her school’s art club and is considering pursuing art as a career. She said she is thinking of becoming an art or art history professor after getting a degree from a school like Pratt, Alfred or the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). She also has an Instagram page highlighting her art (@art.equals.love).
Mia uses her art to speak out about issues that are important to her. One recent piece was titled “Environmental Journal Art.” She has sold some of her art at craft shows, including “Pins for Pride,” which were originally just sold at pride events. The issue of gender equality and just “equality in general” is very important to Mia.
People don’t respect [equality] in a lot of cultures, especially in 2017. We need to fix it and look at each other without judgement."
Mia said this is especially true for teens.
“With teens, it feels like a competition all the time. It’s always there and it is very stressful,” she said.
Her involvement in Youth Ambassadors is one way she tries to help other teens. She said she feels that “Living the Example” means to set the example for peers and younger students not only by not doing drugs, but by being a positive influence. She said one shouldn’t just look at the things that “suck,” but work to be the best you can be.
Mia feels that positive outlets are so important for teens as an avenue to stay away from drugs, alcohol and other destructive influences. She said that boredom and sadness are some of the biggest triggers for teen substance abuse.
For Mia, she said art helps her stay away from substances and destructive behavior because she is “very occupied when [she] am focused on [her] art.”
Outlets such as mine are important because teens need to focus on more important things to help them succeed in life."
Thank you for sharing your creativity with the world, Mia! It’s just one way teens are “living the example”!