DALLAS — Their slogan is “Be the Change.”
A group of Dallas High School students concerned about the rate of teen suicide — and their school’s lack of resources addressing it — did their best to live up to that motto.
In a matter of months, nine high school girls planned, organized and held “Impact Day,” an event designed to let students know they are not alone.
The path that lead to Impact Day, held on May 9, began at a student leadership conference in February. Leadership students decided to attend a workshop on suicide prevention.
“Other schools were sharing a lot their ideas and the resources they have for their students,” said freshman Peyton Amundsen. “We were just blown away by all the resources that the other schools had, so we decided that we wanted to try to implement something like that in our school.”
The leadership students recruited others to take up the cause, and took their idea to the leadership teacher. She encouraged them to work with Jillian Herbes, the school college and career counselor.
Herbes said, since it was already spring, she suggested they work on Impact Day and other outreach efforts to begin next year.
“They were like, ‘We have to do this. Our school needs this,’” Herbes said. “They need it this school year, even if it is small. We need to start somewhere.”
Sophomore Veronica Garay Garcia said they didn’t want students going home for the summer before they held Impact Day.
“I have people in my life that have seriously thought about killing themselves,” she said. “I really wanted to know how we can do a better job of helping them, so it doesn’t get to that certain point.”
McKenna Sonday, a sophomore, said Impact Day was a half-day of activities in the school’s gym. They invited all students and staff to participate. About 50 students and teachers attended.
“Some of (the activities) were games, but some of them were like break-through-the-barrier to help us get to know each other,” Sonday said. “Some of them were even more serious, showing everyone around us that we are kind of all the same in a way. We all have similarities and we all go through really tough times. But we can all come together.”
She believes the message behind Impact Day resonated more because it was student-lead.
“It was also helpful that some teachers came, too,” she said. “Some students don’t ever get to see their teachers in a positive way. They just see them as strict. Now they got to see them playing games.”
School counselor Joy Maddy said school administrators who had been brainstorming for ways to reach struggling students presented their plan.
“Having that come from the students and having that align exactly with what the administration is trying to do here, it’s been a really awesome thing to see and be a part of,” Maddy said. “It’s really key to bridging that. Us as staff couldn’t reach the entire student body on our own. It’s because of these girls that we are going to be able to do that.”
Sophomore Kaitlyn Eshelby said the next goal is to hold full-day events in the fall and spring. They also want to do an event at LaCreole Middle School.
“We were all talking about it earlier. We feel like most of our problems started occurring in middle school,” Garay Garcia said.
They ultimate goal is to turn Be the Change into a class where students learn how to talk to and connect with others in need.
Herbes and Maddy said they couldn’t be prouder of the girls, and are glad they could help bring the vision to fruition.
“I think what’s been really cool about this entire thing is that the students came up with this on their on own,” Herbes said. “They saw a need in our school, and they approached us as staff and said, ‘We want to do this. We are really passionate about it.’”