Suicide Prevention Art Installation on Display

Evan Chang ‘25’s meaningful Eagle Scout project

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“Soccer.” “My cat.” “Friends.”  “Dancing in the rain.” “Tacos.” “Family.” These words that may seem insignificant are written on a wall on campus with an important message behind them. On March 12th, Evan Chang ‘25 took it upon himself as an Eagle Scout project to make a two-story art installation of a suicide prevention ribbon. The last task that Evan had to complete to become an Eagle Scout was a project, such as building a bench, or clearing a mile-long path in a park for wildlife. The mural, found on the wall of Simms Center for the Performing Arts, was built with the goal of bringing awareness to suicide prevention in our community after the recent struggles we have faced with the death of Isaac Shelby ‘24. Created by hundreds of small tiles hand-decorated by students, each has an individual response answering the question “What brings you joy?” 

Isaac’s death took a major toll on our community. Many of us still haven’t recovered from these recent events. Both for students who had close connections with Isaac, or those who only knew him from afar, his death was a loss to our community. He was a classmate, friend, and teammate whose loss created a void that can be difficult to fill. Evan’s prime motivation for this project was Isaac. Evan commented on his friend and fellow varsity soccer teammate saying, “I knew Isaac and when he passed it kind of got to me and I realized that this is an issue that I… wanted to address.” This mural is a guide to our community on a path to healing and support. It gives attention to what has happened and redirects how the Academy will bounce back, even if it takes time. 

One question I was eager to ask Evan was, why joy? He said, “I feel like joy is a little different from happiness. Happiness is more like a bright side, but joy, I feel, is something that lifts you up. Something like a funny joke, or something that makes you smile. Joy is something more inner, like the reason why you do something or your passion.”

Joy is something more inner, like the reason why you do something or your passion.”

— Evan Chang '25

The loss that wounded our own community, represents a much more alarming prevalence outside of the Albuquerque Academy. In 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people who were between 10 and 14 years old, and was the third for people aged 15 to 24. As of 2019, New Mexico is ranked 4th for having one of the highest rates of suicide in the country. In our everyday lives, we are so swamped with school and growing up that it can be hard to confront our emotions. Very few of us stop to ask ourselves questions like “How am I doing? Am I happy? What brings me joy?” 

Through everyone’s tiles, we will see what everyone’s happy about and what unites us, and hopefully we can heal together through this.”

— Evan Chang '25

There could be countless reasons why suicide is happening among so many young people in America. Evan says, “All over the nation, people are so isolated and detached. I just thought that this is something we should address, especially as youth. I wanted to connect ourselves through this project and it may just be a little thing that you do and spend a few seconds writing something, but when it all comes together, I really hope that it sends a positive impact. “Through everyone’s tiles, we will see what everyone’s happy about and what unites us, and hopefully we can heal together through this.” 

This is a tough topic to speak about and an even harder topic to address through action. “When you’re walking around campus, you will see and hear the voices of what brings each individual joy, and I think that’s really cool,” Evan said. “To remind you that there’s things in life that you can appreciate and there are things you can look forward to.”