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(WGHP) — Allyson Mattingly had her sights set on earning a Girl Scout Gold Award throughout her time in the organization.

She knew earning the award would mean investing in a project that was meaningful, and for her, that would mean being vulnerable.

“I’ve had mental health issues myself for quite a while, and so when the time came for a project, I was like, it’s not talked about enough. It’s not normalized enough, and it’s something that people should care about,” she said.

She began working on her project during her junior year of high school as a student at The North Carolina Leadership Academy in Kernersville.

Mattingly’s project focused on helping high school students with depression and anxiety become comfortable communicating their needs.

“I created these boxes and they had just some fidgets that I had made or some store-bought items. I put paper and pencils in there so they could write if they’re more comfortable writing than speaking,” she said.

Mattingly gave one box to her school guidance counselor and another box to a therapy office in Burlington.

Mattingly received the Girl Scout Gold Award for her project.

“Personally, I do know it’s hard, so I wanted to make sure that people in my community know that it’s OK to reach out. It might not feel like it, but everything will be OK,” she said.

Mattingly is now a freshman at NC State University majoring in social work.

She wants to become a therapist.