Middle School students offered holiday hope
By Linda Petersen
Dec. 21, 2017
MORONI—The holidays can be a tough time for many of us, and when things don’t live up to our expectations, it can sometimes hit us hard.
That’s something the members of North Sanpete Middle School’s HOPE Squad are keenly aware of and the reason they planned HOPE Week to be this week rather than any other time of the year.
HOPE Squad is a group of students who work to help their peers who may be struggling. They receive training to help them identify at-risk students and to get them the help they need from trusted adults.
Principal O’Dee Hansen said while there have been no suicides among his students, he, his staff and members of the HOPE Squad know students who struggle.
“We do have students that have gone through these situations,” he said. “Statistically, the holidays are one of the hardest times for adults and youth. It’s a time where we see an increase in suicidal behaviors. We purposely chose that time to bring awareness of this issue, to let our students know there is hope and there are resources out there that can help them.”
He added, “Christmas is a challenging time for students, and they can experience a lot of doubt with a drop in their self-confidence. Some kids turn to self-harming behaviors. HOPE Squad try to be a resource for them, to let them know things are not as dark as they may seem.”
HOPE Squad began three years ago at North Sanpete Middle School when, after attending a presentation on the program, counselor Kami Millet approached Hansen about starting up a squad at the school.
“We all know that the middle school years can be especially tough,” Hansen said. “We felt it would be good to take a proactive approach.”
Millet chooses the squad members and looks for students who she feels could be a good resource for their peers, those who are leaders in various social groups who are particularly kind and empathetic, Hansen said.
This week, which features lots of fun, crazy activities and attire, includes activities designed to remind students that no matter what happens in their lives, there is always someone there to support them, to help them through their darkest hours.
On Monday students got to wear their pajamas to school and enjoyed activities with the message “Be comfortable with who you are.”
On Tuesday they wore Christmas hats to show their support for Suicide Prevention Week.
Ugly Sweater Day yesterday had the message “It’s what’s on the inside that counts, not what you look like on the outside,”
Today is Twin Day where students can dress up like someone else to show that they are never alone, that there is always someone else that cares.
Tomorrow is Hawaiian Day where students can dress like they’re headed to the beach. They are encouraged to think warm and happy thoughts during this holiday season.
Underlying all the fun this week is the message that each student has value and that they need never feel alone.
At North Sanpete Middle, HOPE Squad is an after-school program. Millet’s co-advisor is Cindy Johansen.
“They do a wonderful job,” Hansen said. “We are glad to have HOPE Squad as a part of our school.”