Mental Circle wins Rep. Seth Moulton’s 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Massachusetts’s Sixth District

Rep. Seth Moulton has named Valerie Ha of Phillips Academy Andover and Vernon Ha of Phillips Academy Andover as the winners of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge in Massachusetts’s Sixth District.

When asked what inspired the creation of Mental Circle, the students said, ”A personal inspiration for this app is our mom, who has been diagnosed with depression since we were born. We had seen the effects of depression and how she had struggled with this mental illness first-hand throughout the years as we were growing up. However, we didn’t know about her diagnosis until we were in our teenage years, and we were never really educated about mental health until we came to Andover. Andover was the first place where we were really exposed to the topic and conversation surrounding mental health. These conversations were what helped me make sense of my mom’s unpredictable mood swings growing up and taught us how to best support and talk to her about her depression. In a broader lens, although Andover taught us a lot about mental health, it also allowed me to learn about the importance of mental wellbeing and how prevalent mental health disorders are. Andover is one of the top high schools in the country yet the abundance of resources at our school does not sufficiently support the mental wellbeing of the student body. A higher percentage of students are suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, while counselors are way overbooked and some students have to go on leave because their mental health cannot be sustained on campus. If such a large portion of students are struggling mentally at a high school with such an abundance of resources, the mental wellbeing of young adults in other schools and communities with lesser resources are even more at risk. We created this app with the hopes that all communities have a platform for young adults to connect and share their experiences with mental health in order to destigmatize the conversation surrounding mental health. We hope that through increasing the transparency of mental health and illnesses, young adults feel safer and more comfortable reaching out to others for help when needed. We hope that Mental Circle provides a space where people feel like they are a part of a community that is concerned about them and they feel that they have a solid support system.”

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.