The Help Desk wins Rep. John Larson’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Connecticut’s First District

Rep. John Larson has named Quinn Spurgeon, a 12th Grader at Connecticut River Academy, as the winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Connecticut’s First District.

When asked what inspired the creation of The Help Desk, the student said, ”I was inspired to create this app for two reasons, one was the mental health decline that happened due to the isolation that COVID-19 and lockdowns caused while the other one is the loss of a close friend.

As a teenager in high school I experienced the isolation and social withdrawal that the pandemic caused, for the first few months I didn’t notice how my mental health was slowly deteriorating but I was able to notice it in some of my friends. Humans are naturally social creatures, so cutting off the ability to interact with others along with the fear and stress a global pandemic can cause lead to a spike in mental health crises, along with a rise the the suicide rates among my peers. These young adults weren’t getting the support that they needed, this included myself and a close friend.
I personally can attest to how my mental health was damaged, I started getting into unhealthy habits like not eating, self harm, and even contemplated killing myself because I saw no point in living. I was lucky enough to be able to be connected to a support group and things started to get better for me, but that is not the case for everyone. Some people don’t know where to start looking for mental health services, their families will not help them with the process, or even not seeing the point in it.

One of my friends wasn’t as lucky as me and didn’t receive the help that they needed, which lead to them killing themselves at the start of high school. It truly was a shock to me because I didn’t notice the warning signs of their struggle, which is why it is so important to be able to easily connect with a support group. I still feel guilt to this day that I wasn’t there to help them when they needed it the most, I feel that I might have been able to save him if I did something differently but I can’t change the past.

However, helping people get mental health services now in the present and future can not only help save but improve so many people’s lives. Allowing people to be themselves and helping them through their mental illness is so important, especially in our society today and in our post pandemic world.

The Congressional App Challenge smashed previous participation records in 2022. All told, 9,011 students registered for this year’s competition – creating 2,707 fully-functioning apps for 335 Members of Congress across 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the District of Columbia. This year’s competition set the record for most student registrations, most apps submitted, most apps per district submitted, and most districts receiving over 20 apps. The wildly successful competition continues to impress upon House Members the importance of computer science education and the need to develop a pipeline of diverse, domestic STEM talent. 

The Congressional App Challenge is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science. Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district, and each winning team is invited to showcase their winning app to Congress during our annual #HouseOfCode festival. The program is a public-private partnership made possible through funding from Omidyar Network, AWS, Rise, theCoderSchool, Apple, and others.

The 2023 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June of 2023, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now.