Zoya’s Blog

Zoya’s Journey: Create Awareness and Provide Support and Understanding

My first time as a Keynote Speaker July 11, 2024

So far, in my 5 months of being kid governor, I have been to many events and have given many interviews and speeches. But, being the keynote speaker at the Oregon Youth Summit is definitely an experience that I will never forget. The main focus of the summit was youth mental wellness. The Oregon youth summit is an event that brings together teenage leaders and they all discuss a topic. Their goals are for kids to learn about the government, engage with government officials, and talk about challenges that Oregon’s youth face today.

The event started at 8:30 AM. I had left my house that morning eagerly anticipating the event. I was feeling a lot of emotions that day. I was mostly excited but I was equally nervous. It was the first time I had been asked to give a 10 minute long speech and I was worried that I would fumble or mess up. Being a keynote speaker felt like a big responsibility. When we arrived, I was a little bit surprised that the Summit was taking place at the Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. As we entered the campus, I saw students strolling in and out of the gorgeous brick buildings. The campus even had a little stream with colorful koi fish swimming around. When we went inside the room where the summit was taking place, I could feel the butterflies dancing in my stomach. The room was packed with high schoolers. We were greeted by various adults who told us to sit at a table near the front of the room. Being the only 11yr old in a room packed full of high schoolers, I felt a little out of place. I could feel curious stares prickling on my back as I took my seat. As I gazed at the podium, a new fear arose in my throat. The podium was towering above me. I didn’t know how I was supposed to be seen over it. When I voiced my concern to my mom, she immediately told the person in charge. We spent the next 5 minutes hunting for something that was the right size for me to stand on. We tried chairs, stools, boxes and pretty much everything else you can possibly imagine for me to step on so the audience can see me above the podium. It was a little bit awkward going to and fro from the podium. I started to get a lot of curious stares, for I kept going on and off the podium. Finally, we decided on a chair (it was a little bit too tall). Soon after, the summit started. Some people introduced the summit and what it’s about. The next thing I knew, they were introducing me.

I walked up to the podium and began my speech. I spoke about my experiences and my platform, and about why it is so important to have good mental health. Then, before I knew it I had finished my 10 minute long speech. I walked down from the podium, I realized that it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be. Once I got into the flow of speaking, the words came out naturally. I barely noticed that there were people in the room.

Zoya delivering speech.

Soon after, we took a group picture. I had many people come and talk to me, and even though I was the smallest person in the room nobody treated me that way. I had to leave before the summit was over because I had to get to school. Before I left, I was presented with a challenge coin by Steve Campbell, Director of community services and public safety for the city of happy valley. A challenge coin is a coin that is presented to someone who has done a service to the community. I was so proud to receive the challenge coin. My challenge coin was given to me by the city of Happy Valley. Alas, I now had to get to school. As I got into the car, I thought about how fortunate I had been to get to be one of the keynote speakers at the summit and how great of an opportunity it had been. It was so amazing to see so many people who believed in my cause and who believed that we could make a change.

Group photo.

When I finally got to school, I couldn’t stop thinking about the youth summit and what an amazing experience it was. I had so much fun being there and speaking about my cause.

Zoya outside Willamette University
Me outside the Willamette University.


Challenge Coin from Happy Valley
Challenge coin that was presented to me.
Thank you letter from Lake Oswego Youth Leadership Council.
The letter I received after the summit made me feel so proud and grateful.
Zoya in conversation with Akshata Shah June 21, 2024

Did you know today is world yoga day? I’ve heard from lots of people that yoga can be a great cure for mental health, so I thought, let’s try it out! Now, imagine my excitement when I was introduced to Akshata Shah, a psychologist and a certified Yoga instructor. I did an online interview with her and posted it right here on my blog. Even though it was my first time interviewing someone, she was very kind and put me at ease. I myself tried doing the breathwork that she showed in the video and they worked really well. I noticed a general change in my overall mood and I fell asleep a lot easier. Watch the video below:

Mental Health Trivia May 3, 2024

Did you know that kids mental health awareness week is celebrated every year in May? This year it is happening May 5th through 11th. So, I decided to share some interesting mental health trivia with you all.

  1. Did you know that 1 out of five kids have some form of mental health disorder? That means that 166,000,000 (166 million) kids have a mental health disorder. That’s almost 23 in each school!
  2. Nearly 21.8% of children ages 3 to 17 may be suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder,* and 50 percent of them begin before age 14.
  3. Gratitude journaling is the most recommended way for kids to feel better. It helps you feel joy at the little things in life. Gratitude journaling is when you write down 3 things that you are grateful for that day. According to the University of Berkeley, Gratitude journaling makes you feel a lot happier.*
  4. Being creative also helps your mental health. Studies show that creating art can be an amazing stress reliever. Creativity also encourages out of the box thinking that stimulates both sides of the brain. Art also provides a way to let out your feelings without having to talk about it.
  5. Sleep is super important for mental well being. When you are sleeping your body is in the process of rest and relaxation. A good night’s sleep can mean better physical and mental performance the next day. Did you know that Albert Einstein got at least 10 hours of sleep every day? He claimed that it kept his mental alertness and productivity up.
  6. Most kids feel better when playing. While playing, kids get an opportunity to express feelings that they can’t quite put a word to. Play encourages creativity through games. Play also can keep physical fitness up which is really important for a whole lot of reasons.
  7. A lot of influential artists had a mental health disorder. Did you know that Vincent van Gogh suffered from severe depression? His way of escaping all of that was art. Most of his art was inspired by his depression. Number 2 is Michelangelo. This artist is most famous for his work on the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel. He often locked himself in his home for days at a time, sometimes forgetting to feed himself. This was due to his anxiety and depression. His attention to detail has led to many speculations that he also had obsessive compulsive disorder.
  8. May is mental health awareness month. Mental health May started almost a century ago in 1949. Mental Health Month first started off as Mental health week that was started by Clifford W. Beers. However he had been starting a movement for this issue since early 1908.

Mental health is really important for your general well being. It is a really important issue, and the more we know about it the more we can do to have a healthy mind. I hope that you have learned something new today, and will use it to educate or help others! And as I always say, a happy mind equals a happy life!

*How Gratitude Changes Your and Your Brain
*Study Reveals Fourfold Range in Rates of Mental Health Problems Among U.S. Children Based on Relational and Social Risks

Cabinet Member Guest Blog: Kaavya April 23, 2024

KaavyaMy goal as part of the 2024 Oregon Kid Governor’s Cabinet is to reduce Oregon’s plastic waste and use it to make items that people use every day. Then we can also start replacing single use plastic items with alternatives that are better for the environment. My plan to do that is to work with an organization called Terra-Cycle to make all of the schools in Oregon a public pickup zone for plastic waste. With Terra-Cycle, I can create fundraisers for schools by collecting plastic waste that a Terra-Cycle worker will come pick up! With your plastic, your school can earn an average of $420 that it can use for better school supplies! While we have the fundraisers, I would also like to hold an event for parents and 5th graders to teach younger kids about plastic pollution and why we need to stop it.

Next, I will talk to a group of Oregon’s legislators who are trying to do the same thing that I am trying to do with plastic, and they can help me with my next several goals! First, I would like them to help me set up a meeting with some of Oregon’s recycling companies and other plastic reducing companies such as Terra-Cycle, so I can talk to them about my campaign! Then, I would like them to help me create an after school group to go around their towns to pick up plastic! I would also like to talk to them about maybe passing two different laws in Oregon. The first law would be to have these plastic fundraisers every year within schools, so new generations of kids and parents can teach and learn about plastic pollution! The next law would be to ban single use plastic items that are bad for the environment. Then we can start using either metal items that are reusable or single use natural items that are better for the environment.

As part of 2024s Oregon Kid Governors Cabinet, these are the goals that I hope to achieve during my one year term!

My experience with anxiety April 5, 2024

As all of you know my platform is about creating mental health awareness in kids. However, what most of you don’t know is my reason behind choosing this platform. This issue has a special place in my heart because I can relate to the people who suffer from a mental health problem.

It all started about 2 days after my 8th birthday. We were going somewhere and some conversation (I don’t remember what now) had triggered my anxiety. That night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned but my worries kept me awake. Finally at about 11 pm I walked downstairs and told my mom about what was happening. She asked me what was happening but I couldn’t explain it to her. I told her that I felt like there was a “lump” in my throat. She came upstairs and put me to bed. For the first 2 days this happened, my parents thought that I was making it up. They told me to be strong, and to shake it off. These were people who wanted to help me, but they just did not realize that anxiety could happen to a kid. This lump was making it hard to eat or drink. Now, there was not an actual lump in my throat, it just felt like it. When my parents noticed that I wasn’t eating they called my pediatrician, who gave referrals to a therapist, who had a month-long waitlist. We tried so many things to make me feel better, from massages to math, but nothing worked, not even reading (my favorite thing to do). To me, it felt like this was NEVER going to go away. It felt so hopeless that I taped a piece of paper that said “shut up mind right now.”. Eventually, we tried a guided meditation on YouTube. At first guided meditation was really hard. I wanted a solution immediately, but meditation doesn’t work like that. It required patience, which I didn’t have at the time. I started to develop patience, and then meditation was super helpful. The result wasn’t instantaneous but it worked. Slowly but surely I started to feel better. Soon instead of my anxiety happening every day, it happened only once or twice a week. Soon, it was a rare occurrence. However it still has not completely gone away, and it probably never will. The best I can do is have efficient strategies to deal with it. Even though guided meditation helped me it may not be the best strategy for you. Try doing something that you like to help you feel better.

Everybody goes through rough times every once in a while but getting support from others is really important. I like to imagine it like you are carrying a huge load of bricks. You’ve tried for a while and you still cannot move it. Eventually, you call someone to help you, and together you can share the burden, instead of one person carrying the whole thing .There are still some people out there who believe that kids having a mental health disorder is ridiculous. That’s why it is important to share our stories to let people know that this is a real issue.

P.S. I still do a lot of guided meditation. Sometimes when I have one of my anxiety attacks, my parents will play a meditation video on their phone at night when I go to bed. They are so relaxing that sometimes I am asleep before it even ends! Personally, I feel like guided meditation rids my mind of all my worries, and calms me down a whole lot. I generally do the sleep ones, but there are some for a lot of other things. This is the one I like the best. You can find a lot more on YouTube and see which one works best for you. Click play below to do the meditation:

Inauguration Day March 20, 2024

Zoya standing next to the podium, looking at camera and smiling.Have you ever felt like you were going to explode with excitement? Well that was how I felt on Jan 25. This was “The Day!” The day I had been waiting for since November 27. This was the day that my aunt and uncle had come all the way from Seattle for. This was the day my friends had missed school for. This was the day I had missed school for. This was it. This was my Inauguration day.

The moment I woke up, I was busy. My to-do list for that morning had been: wake up, eat breakfast, take a shower, wait for everyone else to take a shower, change into my inauguration outfit (which was very special since my grandma sent it all the way from India), and LEAVE. The night before, it had been made very clear that no lollygagging was to be done and that we must be out of the door by 11:OO because we were going all the way to Salem. WE did make it out on time. When we first caught sight of the capitol building, I was in awe of the gorgeous place. Just thinking that so many important people had been inaugurated here and that my inauguration was here too, sent shivers down my spine.

When we entered the building, the first thing we saw was a metal detector. But as we got closer to the Senate Chamber Things felt fancier and lavish. When we got to the senate Chamber itself, I took a sharp breath. A fancy podium was at the head of the room and the seats in front were cushioned and they swiveled. The Chambers’ high ceilings were floor to ceiling polished wood. As others filed in, I could see how this place looked while meetings were in session. I could almost imagine an important person giving a speech, with a crowd hanging onto their every word. When everyone arrived, the Deputy Secretary of State Cheryl Myers gave a speech. She spoke about what the Oregon Kid Governor program was about and how I was elected. In a few minutes she was introducing Lea Andrus (The 2023 kid governor) who gave a speech about what she did in her term and what her platform is. And then before I knew it, it was my turn to give a speech. Before I gave my speech I was sworn in by retired Oregon Supreme court Justice Paul De Muniz. As he delivered the oath of office, I put my left hand over my heart and held out my right hand, and I felt so happy and proud.

I had come with the expectation that I would be nervous. But once I got two paragraphs into the speech I realized that it was not that bad. The words flowed off my tongue naturally and I felt confident in what I was saying. My speech felt like it lasted 5 seconds but in reality it was three minutes. After my speech I spoke with Senate President Rob Wagner who was very nice and funny. Then I had a conversation with State Treasurer Tobias Read who had previously sent me a letter congratulating me on my election as Kid Governor.

So many elected officials were shaking my hand that day. So many people were congratulating me. So many camera crews were waiting to take my interview. So much happened that day. When I walked out of the door that day, I felt so excited. This was the day that it all became real.

Zoya, her mother and brother, stand with Rob Wagner and Cheryl Myers in the Senate Chambers.

Zoya and family with Rob Wagner in front of Senate Chambers.

Cabinet Member Guest Blog: Phebe March 12, 2024

Hi, my name is Phebe and I was a final candidate in the 2024 Oregon’s Kid Governor Election. I’m now a member of the Kid Governor’s Cabinet working with 2024 Kid Governor Zoya!

I ran on a platform of saving our endangered species, such as the rusty patched bumblebee. I chose this issue because I already knew how bees that nest underground were endangered, and bees are vital to our food supply. I want to keep our ecosystems healthy, so this is why I ran for Kid governor. My three-point platform is:

  1. To inform teachers and children on the nature around us and encourage schools to take students on more nature hikes.
  2. To create a save the bees, save our food sources committee.
  3. Successfully run a fundraiser and donate the money raised to the Oregon Bee Project.

Get Outdoors, It's Spring Time

Since the Statewide Election, I have made a flier for my first point and have taught my classmates about my experience at the inauguration. I will continue to work on my platform by running a penny drive at my school, Pacific Ridge Elementary.

If you would like to support my platform, you can share my flier and donate to my future fundraiser. Download flyer

Surprise Announcement February 5, 2024
The Day I found out that I was Oregon’s kid governor (11/27/23), started out like any normal day. My mom was fussing over my clothes and hair, but she always does that. But little did I know that the reason that she was overdoing it was that she knew that I was Oregon Kid Governor, even though I didn’t. The true wonders began in school. Right when we got to school our first instruction was to look on the whiteboard (where our schedule is). That day, the schedule was changed. Instead of math, library assembly was written in black marker. Though I had no idea what that meant, I was delighted in missing math.

When the library assembly came around, rumors were swirling around the 5th grade ranging from a guest lecture to learning about how to behave in the library. A look of confusion passed on mine and my classmates faces as we saw various camera crews and people crowded in the library. As we took our seats, one of my friends suggested that maybe they were here for ORKG.  Startled, I realized that this was the week when I was supposed to find out if I was ORKG. My heartbeat faster and faster as the Deputy Secretary of State, Cheryl Myers, stood on the podium and gave a speech. And then suddenly my own face flashed on the tv. Then someone was saying that I was the next kid governor. The roar that filled the library was so loud that I could not even hear the announcer. My parents emerged from behind a bookshelf. I blundered through my speech, still in shock. When I finished my speech, Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas gave a very inspiring speech. After that my friends swarmed me, and I could barely breathe. But they did have to leave to go to the classroom. I, however, had to stay while a tv station interviewed me, and I was so scared my knees were trembling.

When I got back to class, I found out that my teacher and my parents had known that I was the kid governor for 2 WHOLE WEEKS, and they were not allowed to tell me. I was a little bummed out when I found out that I had not missed math, but I was so happy that it didn’t matter much to me. The day went on as normal, but at recess all of my friends came to me and hugged and congratulated me.

When I got home my parents were jubilant, even though they already knew. My parents let me choose where we went out to dinner; I chose Olive Garden. We don’t usually have dessert at restaurants, but since it was a special day my parents got a cheesecake. At the end of the night, I felt so happy and nervous. I was looking forward to the future and all the amazing opportunities it would bring.