A Drexel University student is using their co–op experience to work toward a unique approach to tackle a very serious issue — mental health awareness.
Paris Gramann, a custom-designed major in the Pennoni Honors College, is deep into her third and final co–op experience — but this time, she hasn’t left campus. Gramann applied and was selected for the Entrepreneurship Co-op, a program sponsored by the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship in conjunction with the Steinbright Career Development Center.
Those selected for the Entrepreneurship Co-op are given the opportunity to use their co–op experience to work on their own company. In addition to receiving $15,000 in funding, they are paired with a mentor in the Close School and are allocated a space in the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship, a start-up incubator located on the fourth floor of the Pearlstein Business Learning Center.
Gramann, whose custom-designed major is innovative problem solving and minor is product design, was chosen for the highly-selective Entrepreneurship Co-op program and is working on her own business, Just Be Books, which she started five years ago.
Just Be Books is a consumer-based approach to addressing a problem, Gramann said. She hopes the series of children’s books will, one day, teach children about mental health and the importance of talking about it.
“I have been working on the Just Be Books project since I wrote the first draft [of the children’s book on mental health] in high school,” she said. “[I was writing] funny bedtime stories over texts with my friend, and I kind of held onto [this one].”
Gramann shared about her own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts over recent years and said she is using her own experiences to connect with children about the importance of mental health.
“I’ve gone through a very difficult mental health journey, and [it wasn’t] until college that I realized I was allowed to talk about it,” she said. “After I started talking about it, I realized how many other students are going through things. ‘Why aren’t we talking about it?’ is my question.”
Although she is not an expert in the field of psychology, Gramann’s book series based on her experiences will hopefully be used as a tool to aid parents in teaching their children about mental health awareness, starting at a young age — lessons she, as a child, was never really taught.
Her family didn’t talk about mental health and when she got to college she realized she didn’t have the tools she needed to handle it on her own, she explained. She was able to see that there was a need for something to help communicate these ideas to children.
Even though she hasn’t published her first book yet, Gramann’s work has already garnered a positive response, she said. Her openness about her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts has been infectious — others have told Gramann they’ve started talking about their own challenges.
Gramann has partnered with Rebecca Lee, a student at Temple University studying history education, who will illustrate her book series. The first of the series should be available to order in August during a Kickstarter event for the business.
The funds raised during the Kickstarter will go toward publishing and printing, she said. Gramann is also in the process of researching ideas for subsequent books in the series.
In all, Gramann’s hopes for her company Just Be Books is high.
“We don’t talk about mental health a lot — but we need to, and that’s part of my passion and drive for it,” she said. “This is a passion project.”