Hope Squad: Kind teens offer
support to struggling peers
By Linda Petersen
Nov. 30, 2017
MT. PLEASANT—When life feels overwhelming, kindness goes a long way.
For North Sanpete High School students, they never need feel like they’re all alone in their struggles since they have members of the school’s Hope Squad who will reach out to them.
Hope Squad aims to let students know someone is always going to be there for them.
The program originated in the Provo School District in 2005 when educator Dr. Greg Hudnall, seeking to find a way to address suicide prevention, determined that a peer-based approach was most likely to reach at-risks students.
Hope Squad members are taught to identify those at-risk students, then provide friendship and to seek help from adults when it’s needed.
It’s the second year for North Sanpete High School’s Hope Squad.
The squad’s adviser, Jon Hafen, said one of the reasons the squad was formed was as a response to a state requirement for schools to “up their game” in terms of suicide prevention.
However, Hope Squad is so much more than that, he said. While making sure that anyone contemplating suicide gets the help they need, Hope Squad aims to let any student who is struggling know they don’t have to go through it alone.
As such, Hope Squad members are chosen by their peers, not for their popularity, but for their kindness. This year, the squad has 24 members from all the grades.
And Hafen said they’re making a difference.
“I’ve been really impressed with the students we get,” Hafen said. “They’re so concerned about others and are all very, very kind.”
While the Hope Squad has not been needed to help a North Sanpete student seriously contemplating suicide, one of the school’s students had a friend in another state in that dark place. Through help from a North Sanpete Hope Squad member, the two were able to talk to administrators who reached out to the other school and got the support the student needed.
This week is Hope Week at the school, and the squad has activities planned every day.
Monday was Pajama Day with a theme of “Be Comfortable with Who You Are.” Hope Squad members visited all the advisory classes and introduced students to the SAFE UT app, which provides real-time crisis help to youth through texting and a confidential tip program. Tuesday was Hawk Day with the theme of “We’re All in This Together.” Students wore Hawk attire, and at lunch they could win prizes by answering questions about suicide prevention.
Yesterday was Mismatched Day where students wore mismatched clothing, reinforcing the theme “It’s Okay to Be Different.” There was a donut-eating contest at lunchtime.
Today is Throwback Thursday, and students will be wearing styles from any era. The theme is “No Matter Your Style or Who You Are, There Is Always Help Available.”
Tomorrow, Friday, is Hope Day, and students will wear turquoise and purple, the national suicide awareness colors, to show support for suicide prevention at North Sanpete High. An assembly will be held during flex time.
Beyond this week’s activities, Hafen said Hope Squad members are working to keep their message alive all year long. They’re already planning an anti-bullying activity for after the holidays and are working to get the community involved in their efforts.