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High School Students Become Mental Health Ambassadors at PCSD Mental Health Summit

November 24, 2021

health summit

The health and safety of our students and staff will always be one of our top priorities in the Parma City School District.

Recently, on Monday, November 22, 2021, the district was proud to hold a Mental Health Summit for student leaders at all three high schools at Parma Senior High.

The summit invited about 75 high school students in all grades to participate in this special event. These students were selected by their peers to be part of Hope Squad and become mental health ambassadors.

Hope Squad is a nationwide peer-to-peer suicide prevention program that helps reduce youth suicide through education, training, and peer intervention. (https://hopesquad.com/)

“Wellness is part of teaching the whole child,” Marian Armstrong expressed. Marian is a counselor at Parma High who helped organize the Mental Health Summit this year. “We are teaching these students life-long skills on how to take care of themselves and how to take care of others.”

Students participated in team-building exercises, lessons and training coving several mental health topics with representatives from Ohio Guidestone and Recovery Resources. They also became QPR Certified, which is a training required by the Hope Squad program and was presented by the Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board. 

QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Training helps reduce suicidal behaviors and save lives by providing innovative, practical and proven suicide prevention training. This training helps recognize signs of crisis and gives students the tools and resources they need to help get a peer to a trusted and caring adult. 

“We aren’t teaching them to be therapists,” Armstrong shared. “We are teaching them how to recognize signs of a mental health crisis, how to be a trusted peer, and how to get help for someone in need.” 

Students also worked on self-care and positive affirmations while at the event. 

“All three schools have been working hard on their Hope Squad Programs, and it’s just a fun day,” Armstrong added. “My hope for students is that they take away the importance of us needed to take care of each other. Just saying ‘hi' to someone might make their day and save their life.”

Gage Wellman, a tenth-grader at Normandy High School, said the event was filled with great resources that he will use throughout his life. 

“Covid really took a big hit personally for me and this is a really hard time for a lot of people, so I think this event is a great thing to have,” he expressed. “It was really outstanding to see all these resources at our hands. I really appreciated that.”

Viviana Cabrera, an eighth-grader at Parma Senior High School, felt hopeful after attending the event and was honored to be seen as a trusted friend and peer in her school. 

“You really have to be patient with people and give them the chance to not only open up but also be able to understand them and put yourself in their shoes,” she described. “That’s one of the biggest things I took away from this day. We need to give everyone a chance. I hope other people can also get trained and have the opportunity to help others.”

Adonia Vlahopoulos, an eleventh-grader at Valley Forge High School, attended the district's Mental Health Summit before and was happy to see PCSD bring it back again. 

“I think it’s really great schools are putting a focus on mental health,” she shared. “There are a lot of things on the internet that might not be totally correct. It’s nice to have the schools working with us to have trusted resources to learn what’s real and what’s fake and how things really work, especially when dealing with the human mind. With Covid going on, we were isolated and had a chance to self-reflect, but now we can come together and help get through this together. It’s really nice to see this happen.”