Why and How Kristen Pizzo of The Project HEAL Decided To Make A Change In Our World with Penny Bauder

If you can leave the world having positively affected just one other person, I guarantee you will end this life feeling like you mattered. Everyone matters, but a lot of us struggle to see it, and I think that is at the root of a lot of our struggles with depression. Helping others is my […]

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If you can leave the world having positively affected just one other person, I guarantee you will end this life feeling like you mattered. Everyone matters, but a lot of us struggle to see it, and I think that is at the root of a lot of our struggles with depression. Helping others is my best coping mechanism.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen Pizzo.

Kristen Pizzo is a 22-year-old writer, actor, and activist from San Jose, CA. She received her bachelor’s in writing and rhetoric from the University of Central Florida. Kristen is a full-time freelance writer for clients in the mental health and hospitality industries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Iwas born and raised in San Jose, CA. I have an older sister and a younger brother and always had at least one cat and a dog. I spent a large part of my childhood reading and writing before later getting into theatre. At 14, I started my first nonprofit venture (sort of) by founding the San Jose chapter of The Project HEAL.

You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I see social impact as a core pillar of my freelance writing business. As someone who writes about social justice, mental health, and LGBTQ+ issues, I believe writing alone is a vehicle for social change, but sometimes words aren’t enough. That’s why I am using my words to create products that can fund the causes I care about. Right now, I am focusing on LGBTQ+ mental health and poverty in my hometown with the poetry book and T-shirts I am selling.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

For local poverty:

When I was about 12, my mom and I started volunteering for Sacred Heart Community Service, a local organization that provides food, clothing, job services, and housing help. As I have grown up, the cost of housing in San Jose has skyrocketed to astronomical rates. The homeless population is very visible around the city. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that people are suffering.

For LGBTQ+ mental health:

I came out as bisexual early last year, but I was passionate about being an ally to the community long before that. LGBTQ+ individuals face higher rates of mental illness, including eating disorders, which I have personally struggled with. After I came out, I began to understand just how coming to terms with one’s identity can impact one’s mental health.

There is such a need for queer-affirming mental health services. People deserve to feel seen and understood by their providers. LGBTQ+ people have very specific experiences and need mental health care that can help them work through their traumas and identity struggles.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I have slowly gotten more comfortable sharing my writing with the world over the last two years and always dreamed of publishing it. This quarantine was the final trigger. It made me realize, if not now, when?

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I did a lot of research on the business and marketing sides. I asked for advice. I didn’t move forward until I had the information I needed.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I shared one of my poems on my personal Instagram, which I don’t usually do, and I had a friend of a friend who I have barely talked to message our mutual friend about how great it was and then comment on my post even though he wasn’t following me. It just showed me that getting your work in front of the right people makes all the difference.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I am technology challenged, so I always do things the hard way before figuring out the easy way. I was designing T-shirts and trying to make the artwork background color match the shirt blanks exactly and having a heck of a time. Then I learned how to make the background transparent on all my artwork and my life became so much easier. The lesson is that there is always an easier way. This is 2020, we have the tech for almost everything.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My partner and one of my best friends who is a writer have been so supportive of me. I admire both of them as artists so much, so hearing them reach out to tell me they love my work is so motivating.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Before I made these projects official, I ran a T-shirt and donation fundraiser online for someone I mentor through Project HEAL’s Communities of HEALing. It only raised about $300, but it made a world of a difference for my mentee, who is struggling with an eating disorder while going to college full-time as a former foster child.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

For poverty:

Universal. Basic. Income. And wealth distribution.

For LGBTQ+ mental health:

Better training for all therapists, teachers, workplaces, and anyone who works with people. And resources for parents. Too many parents are negatively impacting their LGBTQ+ kids with their ignorance.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Self-promotion is a necessary evil.

I am introverted and not very confident, so self-promotion is the bane of my existence. But if you don’t talk about your work, how can anyone else?

Networking isn’t as daunting as it sounds.

I never knew what networking meant until I started doing it on accident. Keep up with professional and personal contacts you value, and someday that connection may make all the difference for your project. A supervisor I worked under 5 years ago referred me to someone two months ago and now I have a new client.

Screw what “everyone” thinks.

There are so many people in this world. Your work won’t impress everyone, but there will always be people who value what you do. If you aim to appeal to everyone, you’ll reach no one.

You have to know how to talk about your work.

I once wrote a 130,000-word novel, but when I tried to pitch it, I had no idea how to write about it. Being able to describe your work in marketing language is so important.

Share your project with your inner circle first.

I used to keep my projects hidden from the people closest to me because I was afraid they weren’t perfect enough. Sharing your work with people you trust in the early stages is hard, but can help you improve upon your ideas.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

If you can leave the world having positively affected just one other person, I guarantee you will end this life feeling like you mattered. Everyone matters, but a lot of us struggle to see it, and I think that is at the root of a lot of our struggles with depression. Helping others is my best coping mechanism.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Megan Jayne Crabbe of the @bodyposipanda account on Instagram. She was the first body-positive/eating disorder recovery influencer I followed while battling my eating disorder, and to this day she is still my favorite. She seems like such a lovely person and her activism is truly intersectional. I relate a lot to the posts she shares about her relationship as well. All of her content has always made me feel so seen.

How can our readers follow you online?

My writing pages are @chameleonwriting on Instagram and Facebook, and @pizzokristen on Medium. I am @tabbypourthetea on Twitter. My website is

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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