Farr's new lo­ca­tion

Serve Daily - - COMMUNITY - Laura Giles for Serve Daily

COUNTY — Hope Squads are be­com­ing more and more preva­lent in Utah and across the United States. South Utah County is not an ex­cep­tion. There are cur­rently Hope Squads in ev­ery ju­nior high and high school in Nebo School Dis- trict and they are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of stu­dents.

Hope Squads be­gan with Hope4U­tah, a suicide prevention pro­gram started by Dr. Greg Hud­nall in 2005 in Provo, ac­cord- ing to www.Hope4U­tah.com. The Hope Squads are made up of stu­dents who are nom­i­nated by their peers as peo­ple who are kind, easy to talk to and are good lis- ten­ers. These stu­dents be­come the eyes and ears of the school. They do not act as coun­selors. Rather, they learn to watch for warn­ing signs that an­other stu­dent may be in trou­ble.

Just last year in Utah, 1,100 kids were re­ferred for help through the Hope Squads, ac­cord­ing to Hud­nall. With­out the Hope Squads, pos­si­bly these stu­dents would not have re­ceived the help that they needed. Ad­di­tion­ally, 30 stu­dents were hos­pi­tal­ized af­ter be­ing re­ferred for help from mem­bers of the Hope Squads.

Af­ter be­ing nom­i­nated by peers, mem- bers of the Hope Squads meet to­gether of­ten and are trained by ad­vi­sors in a va­ri­ety of ar­eas in­clud­ing anti-bul­ly­ing, in­clu­sion, hav­ing hope, re­silience and watch­ing for warn­ing signs in oth­ers.

The Hope Squad mem­bers also have op­por­tu­ni­ties to share what they are learn- ing with the rest of the kids in the school. Many schools have a Hope Week. Dur­ing this week, there are daily ac­tiv­i­ties that help teach about these im­por­tant topics. Other schools choose to do monthly ac- tiv­i­ties that in­clude the stu­dent body.

Maple­ton Ju­nior High School Hope Squad Ad­vi­sor Kirsten Hullinger said that one ben­e­fit of Hope Squads is the in­creased aware­ness of oth­ers. “Be­cause they are more aware and more ed­u­cated about suicide, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, they feel more com­fort­able shar­ing this in­for­ma­tion that they have learned with fam­ily and friends and the cir­cle of un- der­stand­ing and ed­u­ca­tion ex­pands,” she said.

Hope Squads at Nebo’s sec­ondary schools are go­ing strong. Many schools across the state are now adding Ele­menta- ry Jr. Hope Squads for stu­dents in fourth through sixth grades. While the topics are sim­i­lar to the sec­ondary Hope Squads, the lessons are dif­fer­ent for ele­men­tary stu­dents, us­ing lan­guage, lit­er­a­ture and ac­tiv­i­ties more suited to their ages.

In 2017, the state leg­is­la­ture ear­marked fund­ing for 90 ele­men­tary schools in Utah to fund suicide prevention pro- grams, such as Hope Squads. There are cur­rently 270 Hope Squads in the state of Utah and in ten other states and Canada.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Hope Squads, go to www.HopeSquads.com.

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