FEBRUARY 2024

CalHOPE Courage Award Winners

The monthly CalHOPE award honors student-athletes at California colleges and universities who have overcome the stress, anxiety, and mental trauma associated with personal hardships and adversity. Here’s a closer look at the inspiring personal stories of the latest CalHOPE Courage Award honorees.

Cameron “Cami” Nelsen

Antelope Valley College
| Volleyball

Cami Nelsen’s journey is one marked by resilience and triumph over formidable challenges. Diagnosed with Stage 2 chronic kidney disease at age 6, she struggled with increasing anxiety about her health, compounding existing mental health issues. Cami suffered from anemia during middle school, forcing her to give up soccer and increasing her anxiety and depression, resulting in self-harm. Admitted to the intensive care unit for emergency blood transfusions in eighth grade, Cami’s physical health improved, but her mental struggles continued.

Transitioning from soccer to volleyball offered a fresh start, and she committed to the new sport, aspiring to play at the college level. However, COVID-19 led to an unforeseen battle—a rapid onset of an eating disorder rooted in trauma, social media, and genetics. A diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa led to a year of hospitalizations, often in isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Motivated by her love of volleyball, Cami’s recovery journey took a new turn post-treatment when she faced the challenge of a knee injury. During this time when she was unable to play volleyball, the native of Quartz Hills turned to advocacy. She founded “The RecoverED Project,” a 501c3 nonprofit supporting those in eating disorder recovery. Concurrently, she participated in the “Dove Self-Esteem Project,” contributing to a viral commercial about eating disorders that garnered more than 10 million views on Instagram and earned an Emmy award nomination. This visibility led to her speaking during a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., with the Eating Disorders Coalition, advocating for mental health legislation.

By April 2023, Cami, cleared to return to volleyball, contacted Mark Cruz, Antelope Valley’s volleyball coach, and tried out for the team. She earned a roster spot, realizing her lifelong goal of playing a college sport. In her freshman season, she appeared in 14 of the Marauders’ 20 games and ranked second on the team with 78 sets and a .250 hitting percentage, while her 104 digs ranked fourth.

“I’ve learned over the past year or so that I must share my story and advocate for mental health because, one, it’s healing for me and helps me turn my pain into purpose, and two, I’ve learned that healing loudly will prevent others from dying quietly,” said Cami.

Myron “MJ” Amey

San Jose State
| Basketball

Myron “MJ” Amey’s journey is a story of athletic triumph and a testament to resilience in the face of profound mental health challenges. Despite averaging 27 points per game as a senior at Vacaville High School, MJ did not receive a Division I scholarship offer. At the same time, he experienced the passing of his beloved uncle Bobby, leaving MJ stricken with grief and unresolved emotions as COVID-19 restrictions prevented a proper funeral.

To continue his basketball dream, MJ traveled 2,600 miles to Scotland Preparatory School in Pennsylvania. He led the school’s league in scoring, but was still not rewarded with a Division I scholarship offer. Committed to making his Division I dream a reality, he worked as a food delivery driver to earn money to travel to a college showcase in Phoenix. His impressive performance earned him a scholarship offer from San Jose State.

Following a freshman campaign in which he averaged 9.5 points per game, he underwent foot surgery. It was then that the loss of basketball and the emotions from the death of his uncle spiraled, and MJ found himself in a dark place He began self-harm and attempted to take his own life. Despite being treated and released from a behavioral health center, he would continue to harm himself before finally agreeing to see a therapist. With her guidance, he began journaling and finding comfort and acceptance.

When his 2022-23 season was cut short after just nine games due to an ankle injury, he worried he would once again be unable to accept life without basketball. Instead, he leaned into his love of music and expressed his feelings in a rap song. Then he attended a Black Student-Athlete Summit and built connections with people outside of basketball. These experiences inspired him to create a TikTok account (@win_a_day_wit_MJ) to share his story and discuss mental wellness.

MJ entered the 2023-24 season both physically and mentally fit, which showed on the court. He played in all 32 games and led the Spartans in scoring at 15.7 points per game, including a season high of 30 versus Boise State in January 2024. Following the season, he entered the transfer portal, and on April 22 announced he would transfer to Loyola Marymount University.

“I felt like everything I had was because of basketball, so when I was injured, I didn’t know what to do and felt alone,” said MJ. “I would feel so bad if somebody I love had to go through what I went through. I hope that by speaking out about mental health, I can help others to seek help.”

About the CalHOPE Courage Award

Presented since February 2022, the CalHOPE Courage Award, recognizes two student-athletes at California colleges and universities monthly for overcoming the stress, anxiety, and mental trauma associated with personal hardships and adversity.

At the end of the school year, two of the student-athletes recognized during the year will be selected as annual CalHOPE Courage Award winners and a donation will be made in each of their names toward mental health services.

It is presented by the College Sports Communicators (formerly CoSIDA), in association with The Associated Press (AP); CalHOPE, DHCS’ crisis counseling and support resource; and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Mental Wellbeing.