“I had a leadership position freshmen year through the Black Student Movement, and it held me to a higher standard,” he said. “Ever since, I’ve wanted to do the service project for Mr. UNC.”
He said he was inspired by Mike Jones, who won Mr. UNC two years ago.
Rodgers’ service project, “HEEL” Your Mind, aims to bring awareness to mental health illnesses.
He said the main component of the project is an annual festival in which performers, such as a cappella groups, provide entertainment and educators provide students with information about mental illnesses.
Rodgers said his passion to advocate for mental health awareness comes from experience with issues of mental health in his family.
“My grandmother, before she passed, had bipolar disorder and currently my great-uncle has Alzheimer’s,” he said. “I saw my great uncle this past summer and he didn’t know me at all. It really hit home and let me know that I have to bring awareness to others.”
His uncle’s diagnosis caused Rodger’s to want to break down the stigma around mental illness for UNC students.
“It let me know that I really have to bring awareness and let people know these types of things before it gets too serious or just let people know how to deal with it and that it’s okay and treat them as normal UNC students,” he said.
Rodgers was also inspired when he heard Rwenshaun Miller, a mental health advocate and UNC graduate, speak at an event last year.
“He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and when I heard him speak about it, it really moved me,” he said.
Rodgers said he hopes the “HEEL” Your Mind festival will become the next big University event, like Holi Moli and Dance Marathon.
“I want everybody to participate in some shape or form and let it be an annual event that everybody looks forward to,” he said.
Rodgers’ service project has been endorsed by the Black Student Movement and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
“I want people to have conversations that they might usually feel uncomfortable talking about. Overall, I just want to create an inclusive environment at Carolina.”