The Wonderful World of Kaitlyn Tollefson
This week I talk to Kaitlyn Tollefson from Colorado. Kaitlyn recounts an incredible journey of self-discovery that put her on a path towards creating change. Listen to find out how at just 16 years old she successfully campaigned to get groundbreaking mental health legislation passed in her state.
Podcast: Dr. Hallowell’s Wonderful World of Different
Episode: Kaitlyn Tollefson
Welcome to Dr. Hallowell’s Wonderful World of Different, a podcast hosted by Dr. Ned Hallowell! By interviewing a wide range of guests from various backgrounds, we will uncover and celebrate the different ways people have of approaching life, solving problems and having fun. Together, we will break down the notion of normal and abnormal, and instead tap into the talents everyone has.
Today’s guest is 16 year old Kaitlyn Tollefson from Loveland, Colorado. First diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten, Kaitlyn began to recognize her strengths and weaknesses and hone in on her love for science and math. In 6th grade, she entered her first science fair and received third place overall in state. Her project usd Legos to determine if there are true boy and girl colors.
Kaitlyn always knew deep down that she wanted to help other people and have an impact. For her 7th grade science fair, she decided to examine how stress impacts the people around her. She was specifically focused on the opioid epidemic and the reasons some people turn towards negative ways to handle stress. She created and distributed a “calm kit” containing various relaxation devices, including handmade fidget spinners, to her classmates. After noticing the positive impact of her experiment, she continued it through the next year.
As she was entering high school, Kaitlyn became interested in activism. She contacted the organization Peace First, who awarded her a grant to continue her stress pack project. She shares that her high school is known to struggle with suicide commited by students. Realizing injustices within our society, Kaitlyn was aware that most people aren’t given proper resources to manage stress in healthy ways. She used the grant to partner with Sources of Strength, an organization which works on finding individuals’s strengths and destigmatizing mental health.
Kaitlyn soon joined the Young Invincibles, an organization focused on helping 18-34 year olds in higher education, the workforce and policy change in mental healthcare. As her capstone project, she chose to work on test files for House Bill 211068, a proposal to make insurance pay for one annual mental health check up. She testified by herself in front of the Colorado State Legislature and the Senate in favor of this bill. It resulted in unanimous favorable votes all across the board, and the bill passed! Now, Colorado insurances are required to pay for one annual mental health and wellness check up seperate from regular checkups.
Being just 16 years old, this experience has shown Kaitlyn that her voice alone can have a huge impact on an entire state. She believes that having ADHD is what put her on the path she is today. No matter how young you are or where you’re from, Katelyn wants everyone to know that your voice matters.
Learn more about Young Invincibles.