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East Students Spread Positivity During Hope Week

East Students Spread Positivity During Hope Week

“Kindness should be free.” 

“Smiles are free.”

These two statements, made by Lakota East sophomore Caitlyn Spaulding and junior E.J. Upton, succinctly describe the Hope Week celebrations at both main campus and East Freshman.

“This week, as always, our goal is to spread hope/ and positivity, and to increase suicide prevention awareness and decrease the stigma around mental health issues,” explained Erin Schneider, co-advisor to the Lakota East Hope Squad. “We believe the little things can mean so much to people,” she continued. “Even though in-person learning has been a positive overall this year, it’s still been a challenging year. As much as we all try to smile with our eyes, it’s just not the same, so we’re trying to find little ways to brighten people’s days.”

Both schools created a week packed with fun activities and spirit days. The freshman building celebrated the week of March 8, with the main campus right behind the following week. “Our biggest goal was to find a fun, positive way to bring a positive message at East Freshman,” said ninth-grade Hope Squad member Sydnie Poling.

Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program, was brought to both high school campuses in 2018. Members, who are nominated by their peers, receive special training in noticing warning signs that one of their fellow students may be struggling and how to refer them to a counselor for help. “As a group, we want to be someone to talk to,” said Upton. “We’re there to be open to everyone.”

While both campuses had similar spirit days and visits from therapy dogs, the students also put their own stamp on it. At the freshman building, the “ultimate egg hunt” had students following one QR code to another around the building. In addition to a clue about where to go next, each code also included a message about finding hope, along with a Hope Squad member passing out candy-filled plastic eggs. The freshman Hope Squad also set up an “I Matter” wall in the cafeteria. Students could post a positive message and also take one if they needed the reminder that they matter.

“I love our group of freshmen Hope Squad members!” said freshman co-advisor Amy Mahaffey. “They are do-ers. They have great ideas on how to spread hope and they go out and do it.”

Freshman Hope Squad member Locklear Butts’ favorite activity was the TikTok challenge where advisory classes got in on the fun. “People were active schoolwide,” he said. “We wanted people to know that there is a group of people who care about making things better at school.”

Poling agrees. “You don’t have to be alone. There are people who are willing to help you.”

Over at the main campus, Hope Squad members assembled 3,000 bags to be used as “candy grams.” Students and staff could write a kind message to a friend or teacher and Hope Squad members would deliver them at no charge. “The candy grams were a big hit,” said Upton. “Since they were free, it was less stress for students because they didn’t have to remember to bring money to school.”

“It was fun talking to people as they wrote their letters and getting to know new people,” said Spaulding.

Poling, Butts, Spaulding and Upton all hope that the positivity continues in their schools, especially as we are still in the pandemic. “You don’t have to be alone,” said Poling. “There are people who are willing to help you.”

Saying hi to people in the hallways and telling someone good luck before a test are simple ways Upton suggests to continue spreading positivity.

“A lot of times we talk about more negative things, but we need to be spreading more hope and being more positive,” said Spaulding. “You don’t know what other people are going through. We don’t want them to lose their hope.”

  • mental health