Lakota East and West Hope Squad members joined 700 students in grades 6-12 from across the state for the Ohio Hope Squad Conference on Election Day. The day-long event, held at the Lakota West Freshman Campus, was presented by the Cincinnati-based non-profit, Grant Us Hope.
Grant Us Hope is the Ohio sponsor of a school-based, peer-to-peer suicide prevention program known as “Hope Squad” which equips and empowers students to watch for warning signs in their peers who may be in emotional distress, then referring them to trained adults who can help.
Over 25 sessions provided opportunities for attendees to share personal stories, participate in panel discussions, attend educational sessions, exchange best practices, receive leadership development and more.
“I think my favorite part of today was that we got to choose our own path and select sessions that interested us most,” said West sophomore Ali Singleton. “It allowed us to work on things we need more development on. And to also do things we just really enjoy.”
East freshman Maggie Todd especially enjoyed the opening session because it covered what it means to be in Hope Squad as well as discovering yourself. The keynote speaker was West Hope Squad alumna Amitoj Kaur who discussed how being in Hope Squad continues past high school.
East student Azlan Alam agreed. “Being in Hope Squad really doesn’t stop after high school. We can carry the skills we learn throughout life.”
Carter Sizemore, a sophomore at West, especially like the session on social media and how it can lead to addiction if you don’t regulate it in your life. He enjoys the sense of community in Hope Squad and that you feel like you are really accomplishing something and doing good in the world.
East’s Carrie Hill gained a lot of new experiences and insights from the conference. “We got personal with art and poetry and ways of expressing ourselves in Hope Squad in a way that can change the community as a whole.”
The conference helped Hope Squads network and share ideas on how to bring awareness to the importance of mental health. The Hope Squads at each school come up with the programs they do throughout the year.
The Lakota East and West Hope Squads are busy all year long spreading messages of hope and the importance of mental wellness. Just this month, West’s Hope Squad had a Positive Pumpkins display where students added what they were thankful for on orange post-its, and the group sponsored a Gratitude-Grams Program where students and staff could send messages and treats to each other.
Both East and West now offer a Hope Squad elective class for students in grades 10-12 to complement the extra-curricular work of the Hope Squad groups.
Students are passionate about the work they are doing. “I’m involved because I really like helping other people,” said Singleton. “The most important part of Hope Squad is bringing more awareness to mental health. We want to help give everyone a safe environment to get help if they need it.”