Meghan Markle and Prince Harry surprise Brooklyn students for World Mental Health Day

Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited New York to host in-person Archewell event for World Mental Health Day

Olivia Hebert
Los Angeles
Tuesday 10 October 2023 22:50 BST
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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made an appearance at a school in Brooklyn, New York, in honour of World Mental Health Day.

On 10 October, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited the Marcy Lab School, an innovative school founded in 2019 that offers students an alternative to the university path. Two educators, Maya Bhattacharjee-Marcantonio and Reuben Ogbanna, founded the school to help Brown and Black students become involved in the tech industry without having to pay the expenses of a four-year university.

The co-founders gave the royal couple a tour of the school’s facilities, according to People. Not only did they reportedly invite the royal couple to join a roundtable with alumni, but they also allowed Harry and Meghan to speak to current students about their experiences.

“Everyone’s got their own story, a reason for being here, your life is still going to be filled with complications and challenges. And if one of you starts to go quiet, doesn’t show up, you need to find out why,” Harry said, encouraging a group of students to rely on each other. “And remember to have fun! It has to be fun.”

Meanwhile, Meghan commended the students’ aspirations for building a safer online space. “It’s a place where so much community can be built, but there’s also so much vulnerability. There’s a lot of saturation, and as parents, we can be hopeful knowing that your bright minds [are at work], knowing that they will be seen, valued and growing in the right direction. And that’s why it’s so important what you’re doing at the Marcy Lab.”

The Sussexes non-profit organisation, the Archewell Foundation, reportedly provided a grant to the Marcy Lab School in January 2023. Since then, the couple have kept tabs on the alternative school’s progress with fellows and the parents of students throughout the year.

The school offers a tuition-free, one-year intensive course for students with underrepresented backgrounds to prepare them for lucrative roles in the tech field. Graduates reportedly earn over $100,000 per year after graduating from the program, often hired by big tech companies as well as start-ups to write code.

At the Marcy Lab School, students are not only taught how to code but also how to fine-tune their problem-solving skills. They then apply what they’ve learned to propose solutions for some of the biggest issues impacting the world, such as climate change. Through a holistic approach, the program integrates mental health practices, encouraging students to participate in daily mindfulness meditation and gratitude journaling.

“They were so cool and down to earth,” Ogbanna gushed to People about the couple’s visit. “I just hope they know how much it meant to us. Harry came in with questions and targeted feedback, and we had to pull him out of the classes because he just wanted to spend as much time pouring into the fellows and saying motivational words! Meghan too.

“And for us, two middle school teachers, to have these people who have seen literally the entire world say that we believe in what you’re doing, believe in it enough to show up and be here. It is a good dream come true,” he said.

The royal couple are in town to host their first in-person Archewell event, “The Archewell Foundation Parents’ Summit: Mental Wellness in a Digital Age.” The event is meant to spotlight families advocating for safer online spaces for their children and teenagers, and the couple has reportedly been working closely with the families behind the scenes.

A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told People: “The families have been engaged with The Archewell Foundation for the past year, bolstering community and driving towards solutions. Together, they are united in their mission to share personal experiences, data, and research to ensure the same does not happen to other families.”

The Archewell Foundation - launched in 2020 - strives to uplift communities and build a better online world through philanthropic endeavours to improve the collective well-being of the public. In their charity work, the couple has long made a point to celebrate World Mental Health Day, like in 2020 when they joined the Teenager Therapy podcast and discussed prioritising mental health with five students from Anaheim, California.

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