WE Walk 4 Hope: District Pauses for Mental Health

WE Walk 4 Hope: District Pauses for Mental Health
Posted on 04/27/2021
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we walk 4 hope graphicA district-wide “Walk 4 Hope” on April 19 underscored the importance of mental health and wellness at all ages. Lakota West’s Hope Squad - a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program focused on spreading positivity and building awareness around mental health - encouraged all Lakota students and staff to “pause” in the form of a midday lap around their building.


“We wanted the walk to be a simple way to reset your body and your mind. It was also a great activity to include everyone,” said Lakota West junior and Hope Squad member Lora Broz. She and her team members were invited to participate in the walk with other Hope Squads in the region, but decided it was something all students in grades K-12 might benefit from. 


The district-wide walk kicked off an entire “Hope Week” at Lakota West; a similar weeklong event was hosted by the Lakota East’s Hope Squad earlier in the year. A different theme marked each day, including for example, a pajama day designed to draw attention to the importance of relaxation and mindfulness. The group passed out coloring pages and resources for practicing mindfulness. Another day was defined as “Dress for Success,” based on the idea that the more confident you feel, the better your day will be.


“We are so happy with the number of schools that were involved and hope to make the walk bigger and better next year,” said Lakota West Spanish teacher and Hope Squad co-advisor Tricia Becker. “The involvement across the district reflects that we all need to take a moment to focus on what brings us hope.” 


Hope Squad members shared a video message with younger students about “why they walk” to help bring meaning to this event. They encouraged students and staff to take a moment to reflect about what brings them hope and then share their responses on a slip of paper. Every reflection was put on display with a long paper chain extending down Lakota West’s Main Street. 


“For me, Hope Squad has always been about creating a culture where there’s less of a stigma surrounding mental health and bringing positivity to people who need it,” said Lakota West senior Evy Best, who is also among the school’s original group of Hope Squad members.  “That’s what today and all of Hope Week is about.”


The student-driven effort was received with open arms by many of Lakota’s younger grade level buildings, which positioned the walk as more of a “brain break” and a time to get your mind right. Similar strategies for mindfulness and self-management are a big part of social emotional learning in the early childhood and elementary schools. 


“They were very happy that the high school students cared about them,” said Liberty ECS counselor Dana Hallgarth, who walked with a first grade class that expressed hopefulness through things like summer, family time at River Gorge and playing with friends.