Remembering Andrew Ayala
It is with intense sadness that I share this news with you. Our NAMI Thurston-Mason program leader and board member Andrew Ayala, passed away from natural causes in Olympia on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
Andrew had become a rising start with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) since coming to Olympia in 2013 to attend Evergreen State College. While a student at Evergreen he took great interest in NAMI, wanting to bring a chapter of NAMI OnCampus, to Evergreen. As a new program for NAMI National, the paperwork to start the program was daunting. As was his style, Andrew jumped in with energy and enthusiasm; recruiting volunteers, soliciting sponsors and engaging faculty because he knew how important mental health awareness was to college students. Data has shown, mental health challenges begin in youth and college students were exceptionally vulnerable to the onset of serious mental illness. Andrew understood and lived that challenge.
As he became familiar with NAMI, it’s mission and programs he saw these programs as a way to furthering his education, aspirations and reduce stigma through volunteering. He signed up to be a NAMI “Ending the Silence” youth presenter. Andrew loved kids and enjoyed sharing his story with middle and high school aged students.
Andrew was asked by NAMI National to be a speaker panelist for the Ending the Silence program at the 2019 NAMI National Conference in Seattle, to educate people from around the country on the importance of addressing youth and mental health. NAMI Ending the Silence presentations include two leaders: one who shares an informative presentation and a young adult with a mental health condition who shares their journey of recovery. Audience members can ask questions and gain understanding of an often-misunderstood topic. Through dialogue, we can help grow the movement to end stigma.
His love for NAMI allowed him to spread his wings into other roles. He became trained as a NAMI “In Our Own Voice” presenter and a NAMI Peer to Peer teacher to continue his mission to educating the community around him about mental health challenges. He was an active participant with all our programs and frequently spoke at conferences.
In 2018 Andrew was asked to join the NAMI Thurston-Mason Board as the Youth/Peer representative and he made his mark. Andrew always influenced with compassion and understanding, bringing his intellect and creativity to our organization. He left the board in 2019 to pursue his interests with boards and commissions in the Office of Governor Jay Inslee. He was also a graduate of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, where he served in the Washington D.C. office of Senator Patty Murray.
Andrew worked at KairosPDX, a nonprofit focused on transforming education through a model built on love and inclusion that elevates the voices of historically underserved children, their families, and their communities. Andrew had so many gifts; his heartfelt way of working with individuals, combined with his incredible sensitivity and capacity to listen, had a profound impact on all who knew him.
Andrew often called or stopped by the NAMI Thurston-Mason office to just say hello. He commented frequently that he “felt that NAMI was his family and Olympia was his home” and he was so grateful for that. He struggled with the world lacking compassion and its never ending ability to stigmatize. But he always loved to return to the friendly Pacific Northwest.
To honor our friend and colleague, we are currently planning several memorial options in Andrew’s memory. I know there are many of us who seek an opportunity to pay tribute to his life, his legacy, and all Andrew stood for. Details about how we can celebrate and honor Andrew will be forthcoming. Please reach out to us by sending us your thoughts, comments or a memory you would like to share via social media or email it to email@example.com
Marilyn Roberts, Director of Operations
On behalf of the NAMI Thurston-Mason Board of Directors
4305 Lacey Blvd, SE, Suite #28, Lacey WA 98503
Donations can be made in honor of Andrew’s work with NAMI here.