COMPTON, Calif. — Attending a high school like King/Drew Magnet that specializes in Medicine and Science will get you some pretty cool opportunities, like meeting the nation’s top doctor.

It's a moment of a lifetime for senior Jessica Ojukwu who wants a career in the medical field.

What You Need To Know

  • The visit by the nation's top doctor is part of a broader effort of the Biden administration to have conversations with youth about the issues they're having surrounding mental health

  • In the fall of 2020, a survey from the non-profit "Active Minds" found neary 64% of high school students said their mental health worsened on some level because of COVID-19

  • In October, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) joined together to declare a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health

  • Visits for suspected suicide attempts among adolescents jumped 31% in 2020, compared with 2019, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Jessica, along with another senior Donte Lewis Jr., were chosen to give the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy a tour of their high school.

Afterwards, students and Dr. Murthy discussed the pandemic’s effects on mental health, a topic Donte says all students are grappling with.

“It’s a social aspect that school brings which brightens your day every day you get to see your friends. But being on Zoom, logging into the computer is really draining, and you just sit behind a screen without feeling that connection with your teacher that you would normally get", Lewis Jr. said.

After more than 18 months of school closures and social isolation from the pandemic, health professionals have declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

Dr. Murthy’s visit is part of the administration’s broader efforts to address this growing crisis.

“We’ve had rates of suicide increase among our children, and for many kids during the pandemic, feelings of anxiety and depression worsened and loneliness as well. We’ve got a lot of work to do", Dr. Murthy said.

Jessica also struggled with mental health during the pandemic.

As the oldest in a Nigerian family, she has extra responsibility in taking care of her younger siblings.

This, on top of virtual school took a toll, but she learned that movement helped to alleviate her stress.

“During my lunch break I’d go outside, do a few laps, walk, jog, run, just something to sort of take out all the negative energy that had been inside for a long time and just take them all out", Ojukwu said.

It’s going to take time to heal the nation’s children from this mental health crisis, but a conversation, like the one with the nation’s top doctor, is a start down that path.