Graduation 2023: Stivers student found healing through community and music

Jonathan Quallen-Cooper of Stivers found a way out of mental health issues through band.

Jonathan Quallen-Cooper is a Stivers High School graduate who found refuge in band during a mental health crisis in high school.

Quallen-Cooper has long known he has ADHD but during his sophomore year of high school — the 2020-2021 school year — a combination of factors, including that almost his entire school year was remote, meant he became depressed.

“Most of the days I would stall until the last possible moment to get ready for school and leave, because it’s like, there’s no point to it,” he said. “I’ll just be there again tomorrow. No one will miss me or anything. Then, as I came to school more often, in band, I’m needed.”

Being in band and playing the trumpet meant he had a responsibility he had to show up for. He said his band teacher, Ryan Griffin, encouraged him to show up.

“We can’t have a song with one trumpet,” Quallen-Cooper recalled Griffin telling him. “We need all of them.”

Griffin said Quallen-Cooper has grown from a shy student to a confident young adult.

“He has really opened up during his senior year and likes to chat every day before and after class,” Griffin said.

Quallen-Cooper said it helps if people around those hurting can if see they’re struggling and ask about it.

Finding a niche and a community was key for him to find his way out of depression, he said.

“Humans are a social creature,” he said. “We need each other somehow.”

Quallen-Cooper said he plans on taking a gap year before going to trade school, likely to become an electrician. He said he is considering becoming a band director or doing something else musically down the line.


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