iLocal News Archives

Good News: CI Gov collaboration addresses student mental health

Students: ‘Speak From Your Art’!

Groundbreaking new mental health initiative for Cayman’s high school students

A team of Cayman creatives and world-renowned artists are bringing a new twist on art-based learning to Cayman’s public high schools, in partnership with the Department of Education. 

Speak From Your Art (SFYA) is an annual mental health initiative, arts movement and event series combining the talents of International Book Award-winning author Carlos Andrés Gómez, acclaimed musician and producer Brent Shuttleworth, and a 3rd featured Caymanian artist, whom will be announced at a later date.

Director for the Department of Education Services, Mark Ray noted “The Department of Education Services recognises that mental and emotional wellness is critically important to the success of our educators and students.  As such, this initiative that marries culture and art, with mental and emotional wellness, is a welcome addition to the resources and partnerships we seek to foster to support our students and educators.”


The Cayman Islands Department of Education Services – in partnership with New York-based Penguin Books Poet, Novelist + Award Winning Performer Carlos Andrés Gómez and renown musical composer Brent Shuttleworth: will implement a blended arts, culture and emotional wellbeing module to the Cayman Islands National Curriculum, starting in 2024. 

The initiative is entitled ‘Speak From Your Art’ [SFYA].


  • The multi-level, national program will utilize Caymanian Arts & Culture as the vehicle for addressing Cayman’s student mental health epidemic. Each year, participating students will vastly expand their creative muscles while exploring mental health challenges they face in an isolated, digital world.
  • A critical component of SFYA is the 3rd featured artist. The program will be anchored by an experienced Caymanian performing artist and cultural influencer, who will be announced in the coming weeks. 
  • SFYA recognizes the immense pressure on educators in this current climate and thus, it is a robust program requiring support from various facets of the local community. The Founders have formed an Arts, Culture & Wellbeing Panel for SFYA to feature representation from these industries, including the integration of a licensed therapist.
  • The annual program features several components including: a classroom module, immersive workshop check-ins, artistic and wellbeing mentorship, as well as – the most critical – a safe community for students to celebrate their culture while learning to thrive under its unique pressures.
  • Critically, SFYA has not forgotten those who are, at times, the most affected by the youth mental health pandemic: Cayman’s teachersThe SFYA Programme will feature a spin-off annual event, ‘Teach From Your Art’, designed to give educators a forum for voicing challenges and sharing insights, as well as a chance to be celebrated for their work.
  • SFYA is designed to support and amplify the efforts of all national organizations with similar missions. Once the student participants are onboard, expansion plans include opening participation up to members of all programs serving at-risk youth.

About Speak From Your Art

Speak From Your Art is an 8-week educational curriculum centered around providing young people with coping skills to manage mental and emotional health, set against a series of live events celebrating culture and the arts. 

The curriculum is designed to give actionable tools in support of mental and emotional wellbeing through evidence-based strategies, inspire students’ artistic expression, and offer cultural experiences to create a sense of community and belonging amongst Cayman’s public high school students. 

This curriculum aims to address the isolation so many students suffered pre- and post-Covid. Following each semester of development work, students will exhibit what they have created – alongside Carlos, Brent and the featured Caymanian artist – in an annual culture capsule.

The initiative is co-created and managed by Caymanian philanthropist and finance marketing professional Searlina Bodden-D’Amico, a founding member of 100 Women in Finance Cayman, founding co-chair of 100WF Next Gen and founding committee member of the Cayman-based non-profit mentoring program GirlForce 100. 

Speak From Your Art was created by its Co-Founders, Carlos Andrés Gómez and Searlina Bodden-D’Amico.

The Mission

“hen it comes to our students, we ofWten address mental health at-home and at-school in silos,” Mrs. Bodden-D’Amico stated. “The truth is they are inextricably connected, as students spend two-thirds of their lives in classrooms prior to young adulthood. What they absorb often forms the basis of their self and social awareness for their lifetime. 

SFYA addresses not just the symptoms of mental instability, but the root cause, organizers state.

Mrs. Bodden-D’Amico continued, “SFYA will nurture the creative instinct of the student, aiming to shift damaging internal narratives they hold around mental health care and, instead, cultivate emotional resilience they can apply in every area of their life.

“No child needs to be “fixed”; they need to be equipped and to feel heard. They crave community, so that is what SFYA is.”

Speak From Your Artwill bring together students from Cayman Islands public schools for an immersive educational, creative and performance experience each year. 

“The state of young people’s mental and emotional health globally is a public health crisis,” Gómez said, “and this program is a tangible way to urgently address what is happening, giving teens actionable tools while also nurturing their agency and creativity. I cannot think of a more powerful way to invest in the young people of Grand Cayman than through a program that supports their mental wellbeing like this.”

SFYA will use the arts (poetry, song, storytelling, music, dance) as a catalyst for promoting mental wellness and emotional resilience in Cayman’s students aged 13-18. Throughout 8 weeks of immersive interactive skill-building, students will develop coping strategies, generate art, and form bonds with their facilitators and each other. 

It is the intention of organizers for this initiative to ‘pilot’ at the national level in The Cayman Islands for 2 years and then begin to scale to other cities.

SFYA Fundraiser

Organizers are currently meeting with potential fundraising partners for this groundbreaking youth mental health educational initiative. For those looking to sponsor, volunteer or join the strategic advisory committee, you can reach out via email to [email protected].

The Artists + Founders

Carlos Andrés Gómez (Co-Founder) is a Colombian American poet, performer, and strategic consultant from New York City. He is the author of the poetry collection Fractures, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as the winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, and the memoir Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood, released by Penguin Random House. A star of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and Spike Lee’s #1 box office movie Inside Man with Denzel Washington, Carlos partnered with John Legend on Senior Orientation, a program to counteract bullying and champion inclusive masculinity among high school students.


Brent Shuttleworth is a critically acclaimed musician and producer who currently resides in Washington, DC. His music has been featured in films and TV shows on Netflix, Amazon, VH1, MTV, NBC, TLC, Lifetime, and CBS. He has shared the stage with a diverse range of luminaries and icons including George Clinton, Pete Rock, Switchfoot, Robert Randolph, and Saul Williams. 


Searlina Bodden-D’Amico (Co-Founder) is a Cayman-bred Brand Growth and Performance Professional with 16 years’ experience in leading high-impact marketing brands and teams. While enjoying a busy marketing career, Searlina has lent her leadership skills to several non-profit community initiatives including 100 Women in Finance Cayman, 100WF NextGen, Cayman Islands Marketing & Professionals Associated and is a Founding Committee Member of GirlForce 100, a mentorship initiative for female students between 13-18 seeking careers in Finance. Searlina is Director of Marketing for BG Wealth Group in Toronto, Canada, Co-Founder of Storii Community Media and Co-Founder of Speak From Your Art, an immersive arts, mental health and culture curriculum and think tank, launching in Cayman 2024.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *