It didn’t take long for Seton Catholic High School’s new Hope Squad to pass its first test.
“That happened very quickly,” recalled Katie Price, one of the co-directors of the Chandler school’s suicide prevention program that it began this fall.
“A student in our Hope Squad was listening to her friends and thinking to herself, ‘this doesn’t sit right with me,’” said Leah Kochis, one of the counselors at the school. “‘She’s making these comments– this is what I learned about.’”
Kochis said the student came to her with her concerns. The two worked out a plan that had the Hope Squad member ask the teen some follow-up questions.
“She came back and she said, ‘This is not as easy as it seems, that was really hard.’”
At that point, Kochis talked to the student and was able to identify some struggles the student was going through. Kochis directed the student to some outside agencies that could help.
The school started the Hope Squad exactly for situations like that.
Hope Squad is a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. Hope Squad members are nominated by their classmates as trustworthy peers and trained by advisors. The program reduces the risk of youth suicide through education, training, and peer intervention.
“We’re always looking for ways to support our students, and help them walk through those difficult moments and remind them they’re not alone,” Seton Catholic Principal Victor Serna said.
“We love our students tremendously, and we recognize that they have several challenges. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to, whether it’s a trusted adult, or a peer.”
The Hope Squad program started in 1997 in Utah, where the Provo City School District had been averaging one to two youth suicides a year for about a dozen years.
One of those deaths was a fourth-grader who ended his life on campus. A principal in the district, Dr. Gregory Hudnall, decided to do something about it.
The Hope Squad comprises three boys and three girls from each class at Seton. School officials do not choose which students are on the squad, as it is their own peers who elect them.
“They sent out a survey to the whole entire school for us to answer,” said Cole Urwiller, a junior and a member of the Hope Squad. “They asked us to pick people that we trusted and felt that we could talk to them about anything and that were loving.”
Cole said he was a bit uneasy when he found out he was chosen by his peers.
“I’ve had experiences in the past where I’ve had to help people in that situation, and that is nerve racking and it is scary,” he said.
“But it is worth that being scary and having to do things that step outside of your comfort zone. It makes me grow into a better person.”
Libby Fogerty, a senior on the squad, said she had no hesitation about joining after her peers selected her.
“I was all about it,” Libby said. “I thought it’s really cool that if someone came to me for help, I’d be really cool to talk to them and everything.”
Both Libby and Cole say they plan to study psychology in college and see their participation. in the Hope Squad as helping to prepare them for that.
In addition, Libby spent six weeks of the summer training at Teen Lifeline, a suicide prevention hotline run by teens. That was before she knew about the Hope Squad.
Serna said the Hope Squad is just one of the things school staff is doing to address the national increase in youth suicides.
Similar to the Chandler Unified School District, Seton put the Teen Lifeline phone number on every student’s ID so they can assess it quickly.
He is also proud of the school’s counseling department.
“The average caseload for school counselors in the state of Arizona is high, like 800 or 900 students for every one counselor,” Serna said. “We have a caseload more about 125 students per counselor.
“That allows for a lot more interaction between student and counselor and helps build that relationship.”
As a counselor, Kochis said getting peers involved is important.
“We know, they go to each other first,” she said. “Why not give them the tools to help each other? I mean, that changes the whole culture of our school where we’re looking out and we’re supporting each other.”
By Ken Sain, Managing Editor www.chandlernews.com
2023-11-20 07:00:00 , www.chandlernews.com – Vivrr Local Results in santan/news of type article