Youth Spotlight: Jonah Wolansky finds his voice through film
Eagle River Youth Coalition
“You’ve got to free your mind if you want to free your soul,” are lyrics I’ve remembered from the MarchFourth band, but they’re also sentiments I recently heard recounted by Jonah Wolansky, a senior at Red Canyon High School.
Jonah moved to our community two years ago from South Florida to intentionally go to RCHS because he appreciated the school’s approach with students in a nontraditional setting and the dual enrollment college classes he gets to take. He’s also come to enjoy the variation in climate, terrain, and activities our community offers. One of those college classes he gets to take this year is positive psychology — a class he’s very “psyched” for — as mindfulness and minimalism are very important to Jonah.
Jonah is a youth that stands out among his peers as he is deeply dedicated to exploring human issues that affect personal behavior, the things that generally stay hidden, that include depression and compulsive consumption. He uses mindfulness as a tool to help him keep his mind healthy and to support his desire to find healthy behaviors.
He is concerned by excessive youth technology use and substance use, especially vaping. He hopes his peers stop using substances and, instead, look for healthy outlets and habits to cope with the stressors of life. Jonah often hears his peers complain about not being able to sleep and shares that screen use before bed triggers the brain into thinking it’s daytime, changing your hormones around sleep time and making it harder to sleep.
Jonah advocates for minimalism in human behavior and in human consumption. To him, minimalism means the practice of living a more meaningful and direct life. He shares that so many people now look to find happiness in things, to fill our lives with stuff, to try to add value to their lives by consuming. This, however, is an empty road of excitement and letdown.
“When there’s so much clutter and stimulation in our lives, we get confused on what’s actually important to us and what adds value,” Jonah said.
Jonah took his passion to the screen this summer by enrolling in a film camp with High Five Access Media in Avon. The camp was created with a mission to foster civic engagement and storytelling by enacting our freedom of speech. The camp community of inclusion forms critical thinking and innovation to embrace adversities.
Students learned about journalism, how to interview, how to utilize the camera, how to light a shot and how to capture audio. They also learned how to use editing equipment in post-production. They conducted interviews and chose topics that were important to them as youth.
Jonah’s group chose to focus on health and wellness, while another group chose to focus on LGBTQ youth needs and supports (or lack of) in the community. Camp director Reece Carter shared that Jonah excelled as a leader in the program, mentoring younger youth.
Carter said Jonah is “consistently willing to accept challenges, learn, and finalize his project. He has gone above and beyond in order to invest in his original idea.”
He’s finding his voice through storytelling in film and is helping facilitate the local conversation around how we support the mental health of youth in our community. Jonah is saddened when he hears other youth in the community share that they don’t care about the quality of life they live because they’re going to die anyway. His response is, “yes, you’re right, we’re all going to die one day, but you must strive towards the best life possible in order to achieve true long-term happiness and a meaningful life.”
Changing habits isn’t easy though, and Jonah recognizes this. He encourages people to look at their daily lives and decide what habits they want to start and what habits they want to let go and change. He tells others to take it one step at a time and be patient with the process. He stresses using the tools of mindfulness, health, and decluttering your mind and your possessions to find what’s really important to you and what adds value to your life.
Jonah shares a Jim Carrey quote, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it’s not the answer.” Jonah reminds us of a minimalist saying: to use things and love people. To see the completed videos from the High Five camp, visit http://www.highfivemedia.org/series/high-five-youth.