DASD Hope Squad members help to create safe school environment

DuBOIS — Both the DuBois Area Middle School and the DuBois Area High School have established Hope Squads, which is a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program.

“Although the DuBois Area Middle was the first area school to start a Hope Squad, DuBois Area High School quickly got on board to continue the great work the middle school began,” said DAHS Hope Squad Advisor Tracy Chewning.

Students are chosen for Hope Squad as a result of peer nominations, she said. From the confidential nomination process, the advisors created a list of potential members. Then, Principal Chuck Pasternak met with each nominee and his or her parent(s) or guardian(s). Students who accepted the nominations then became part of the very first Hope Squad at DAHS.

Currently, the high school has 35 students on the Hope Squad roster. She said they are also fortunate to have several freshmen who were members of the Hope Squad while at DAMS.

The Hope Squad program was founded by Dr. Greg Hudnall from Provo, Utah as a response to a suicide epidemic in his community. The mission of the program is to reduce suicide through education, training and peer intervention.

All members of the Hope Squad participated in a day-long training at the beginning of the year, said Chewning. Their education continues with weekly meetings and a monthly mini-training.

“They are trained by a team of 11 advisors who have volunteered to be a part of this worthwhile cause,” she said. “The students will continue learning to help empower the students to help one others, to increase awareness of mental health concerns, and to recognize and report any concerns to trusted adults.”

All of the advisors were trained by Hudnall, Chewning said.

“We have an in-house QPR certified trainer who teaches students ‘question, persuade, and referral’ techniques, as well as guidance counselors and many combined years of experience working with students as teachers, coaches and advisors of clubs,” said Chewning.

She said the local community has been supportive to the Hope Squad endeavors as well — Buck’s Pizza, Scotty’s Donuts, Sunny 106, Clearfield Jefferson Suicide Prevention Team, PeerStar, DiLullo Transport and Two Brothers Tees have helped the team.

So far this year, the DAHS Hope Squad has participated in the annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk in DuBois.

On Tuesday, they will be hosting the film “My Ascension” in conjunction with Peerstar and Clearfield-Jefferson Suicide Prevention Team.

They are also planning a weeklong “Hope Week” event in February, along with other school events to promote positivity and HOPE throughout the year, said Chewning.

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