Gabrielle “Gabbie” Silva embarked on her academic journey at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) in the challenging landscape of fall 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite facing the unusual circumstance of remote learning from her home in Union City, California for her first year, Gabbie exhibited remarkable academic prowess. The presence of her family and friends provided a crucial support system, aiding her through the isolation resulting from the pandemic.
Upon her return to campus for in-person classes in 2021, a discernible melancholy shadowed Gabbie. While she continued to excel academically, those close to her noticed an underlying sadness, not present the previous year.
During the subsequent summer, Gabbie took a courageous step by reaching out to Kisha Calbert, CSUDH student academic success coordinator, to share the mental health challenges she was facing. Torn between loyalty to the team and coaches and a diminishing passion for the game, Gabbie tearfully informed her coach of her decision to step away from volleyball. The overwhelming combination of travel, practices, and teammates had taken a toll, with her mind spinning and thoughts turning dark. Recognizing the need for change, she sought support from the school’s sports psychologist, Dr. Lupe Herrera, and joined support groups to navigate the difficult terrain.
In her pursuit of a fresh start, Gabbie also transitioned from majoring in art to graphic design, and she embraced an internship with the campus communications office. Last fall, Gabbie made a triumphant return to the volleyball team, viewing the team environment as a safe space to express her feelings. Ms. Calbert continued to offer Gabbie support, emphasizing Gabbie’s continued involvement in campus therapy programs, and championing available mental health initiatives.
On the volleyball court this season, in 13 matches, Gabbie began to return to the form that made her a rising star as a redshirt freshman, when she led the team with 293 digs and displayed a .934 reception percentage in 21 matches.
Reflecting on her journey, Gabbie shared, “I’ve learned how important it is to ask for help and surround myself with a strong support system I can rely upon. I now know there is no shame in reaching out to my loved ones about the mental health issues I struggle with. Asking for help is one of the most courageous things I could have done for myself. I’m glad I was able to be vulnerable and ask for and receive the help I needed.”