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Getting to Know...

Alison Malmon

Alison Malmon, a Potomac native, was honored last week as the county's public schools' Alumnus of the Year. Malmon founded Active Minds, Inc. after her brother struggled with serious mental illness while in college.

What community are you a member of, what brought you to it and how long have you been here?

I was born in Potomac, and made my way through the MCPS school system — Beverly Farms Elementary School, Hoover Middle School, and Churchill High School — from where I graduated in 1999. After college I moved back to the area, and I now live in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.

Family:

A mother and step-father, Joanne and Stan Milobsky in Potomac; father and step-mother, Stuart and Jill Krasner Malmon in Olney. My brother Brian, a Churchill '95 graduate, passed away in 2000.

Where did you get your education and in what areas?

I got my bachelor of arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, in Psychology and Sociology.

How would you describe yourself?

A Washington area native who loves smiling, adventure, and creating my own path.

What do you consider to be your biggest achievements?

Never giving up, and never letting life overwhelm my dreams — instead, just intertwining it all.

Activities/interests/hobbies?

I teach the flying trapeze in Baltimore when I'm not working at my day job, Active Minds. Flying on a trapeze is my favorite hobby. Otherwise, I enjoy traveling, spending time with friends and family and — secretly — watching pointless TV on a weekend afternoon.

Favorite local restaurant or place in the Potomac community?

Cabin John Park

What would you change about the Potomac community if you could?

Improve the Dunkin Donuts in Cabin John Mall! I love DD, but the one in Potomac does not live up to expectations.

Who is a historical figure you would like to meet?

Rosa Parks. She silently led by example and broke so many barriers along the way.

What community "hidden treasure" do you think more people should know about?

Hadley's Park off of Falls Road. I am always so proud when I drive by the park to see how well kept it is, and know that it's a place where every child can play.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you "grew up?"

I wanted to be an astronaut, or a kindergarten teacher. I couldn't quite make up my mind. I really wanted to be my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Weinberger, who was the coolest kindergarten teacher around.

What are some of your personal goals?

To continue to work at the organization I founded until it has outgrown me. I'd also like to go back to school for a doctorate in social psychology, and become the Dean of Students at a University. I'm also looking forward to having a family of my own.

Favorite movie or book?

"Shrek," how can one not love the big green ogre?

Describe how you would most enjoy spending a single day?

Sleeping in, a big breakfast, taking a walk outside in our atypical non-humid weather, then flying on a trapeze in Baltimore.

If you could be anyone else, who would you be and why?

I don't think I would choose to be anyone else. I'd rather just keep being — and improving — me.

Do you have a favorite quotation?

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail"

What is Active Minds, Inc.?

Active Minds, Inc. is the nation's only nonprofit organization dedicated to utilizing the student voice to raise mental health awareness on the college campus. I founded it as a student group on my campus at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001, and then as a nonprofit upon graduating in 2003. The nonprofit works to develop and support chapters of Active Minds student groups on college and university campuses around the country, and unite all of the students into one movement of young adult advocates. Now with 65 chapters, we are looking to grow exponentially and be on 300 campuses in the next three years.

What are the major issues for college student’s mental health?

Students are frequently facing issues of depression, anxiety, and a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Other students are also living with eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and other disorders like schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. For numerous reasons, many of these disorders first present at the high school and college age. But it is particularly important to promote and protect the mental health of college students because oftentimes this is the first time students are on their own, they are away from their normal social supports, and the transition to a new life at college may be difficult.

How did you get involved in being a college student mental health advocate?

When I was a freshman in college my brother, Brian, took his own life. He had lived in silence with depression and psychosis for three years in college before seeking help. Just a year and a half later, after living with the illness for more than four years but getting support from his family and professionals for only a little over a year, Brian's pain was too much to bear and he ended his life. Since I was in my freshman year of college at the time, and Brian and I were such similar people, I started reflecting on his life and his illness and really wanted to bring some education to my campus so that other students didn't suffer in silence like Brian had. After getting no response from national mental health organizations about existing on-campus programs, I formed the first chapter of Active Minds in my junior year. After a good friend of mine from Churchill, Kate Hard, founded the second chapter of Active Minds on her campus at Georgetown in 2002, I recognized the need and interest in such a program on other campuses. So, upon graduating, I formed Active Minds into a 501c3 organization — and have since adopted and refined my role as the young adult voice on mental health.

What does it mean to you to be named alumnus of the year?

I am quite honored to be recognized in this first presentation of the MCPS Distinctive Alumni Award. Montgomery County Public Schools have graduated so many successful people who are doing amazing things, and I am just thrilled to be able to represent them all.