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Hope Squad Spreading Positivity, Awareness at High Schools

April 23, 2021

hope squad

Parma City School District high school students are spreading hope and positivity throughout their schools thanks to the Hope Squad.

According to their website, Hope Squad is a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program across the USA and Canada. The program reduces youth suicide through education, training and peer intervention. Hope Squad has three main goals -- preventing suicide through public awareness and education, reducing stigma and serving as a resource to those touched by suicide.

Hope Squad is made up of students in all grades and was introduced in 2020 at all three high schools in the PCSD. 

Valley Forge High School Hope Squad co-advisor Libbi Chilia said the school has a great group of students and advisors that are very active for the first year.

“Our student ambassadors were voted in by their peers and are trained in helping other students get the help they need,” Chilia shared. “They were voted in because they are seen as trustworthy, compassionate and good listeners.” 

The group, which has around 30 members, has been working on making the school more accepting and positive since day one. 

“In our first week, we created posters and had inspirational quotes from celebrities, athletes and historical figures, and hung them all over the school,” VF Hope Squad member and 10th grader Kevin Ha described. “We hope everyone saw them and had a better day.”

Members also wear yellow masks for suicide prevention awareness. 

Last week, Valley Forge celebrated Hope Week.

During Hope Week, Hope Squad members passed out bags of lifesavers to students as they came to school. Each bag had a message, “the world needs YOU as you are” along with the suicide hotline phone number.

Also, during lunch periods, all students were invited to write positive messages on post-it notes and place them on poster boards to spell out EMBRACE HOPE. 

“We wanted to get more of the school and students involved in spreading positivity,” VF Hope Squad Member and 12th grader Gabby Lutzo shared.

“We are also trying to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and let people know it’s ok if they need help,” VF Hope Squad Member and 11th grader Lillian Greene added.

Students all agreed that having a Hope Squad at Valley Forge is needed.

“I think especially with the current pandemic and people being isolated and in quarantine, we need to have a Hope Squad here in the school to offer support,” VF Hope Squad Member and 12th grader Noell Sebastian expressed.

“After being alone for a long period of time, it was nice to have something at the school that was positive and inclusive to come back to,” VF Hope Squad Member and 12th grader Emily Hubbard added.

Students also said there was a lot of time for self-reflection and Hope Squad is a way to express all those feelings, especially to their peers who know what they are going through.

The group was hopeful they were laying a good foundation for Hope Squad to continue to be helpful and supportive for all students in the future.

“I hope in the future, Valley Forge students and staff have a better understanding of mental health and reduce the stigma because that is very harmful to people who are going through it,” Greene shared.