October is all about bringing kindness, acceptance and inclusion into schools and communities all over the world for Bullying Prevention Month. And here in Arlington ISD, bullying prevention goes beyond the month of October.
Just ask our Hope Squad members from across the district who know exactly how to fill their schools with hope and kindness all year round. Hope Squad is a national peer-to-peer suicide prevention program aimed at reducing youth suicide through education, training and peer intervention.
Arlington ISD is in its third year of implementing the Hope Squad Program across the district with the help of the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation. This year for the first time, the Faith Fight Finish Foundation will also have a hand in funding the Hope Squads across Arlington ISD.
Each year, students from 17 Arlington ISD schools are nominated by their classmates as trustworthy peers. These students are then trained by advisors to help guide their classmates through bullying and hardship.
“It’s not based off of straight A students, it’s based off of students that they are truly comfortable talking to,” said Amos Elementary school counselor Chika Ifechukwude. Last Friday, the Amos Elementary Hope Squad attended its weekly meeting with special guests from each foundation who came out to see the program in action.
“To come into the classroom and see kids who are equipped and learning these kinds of skills is super rewarding,” said David Umanzor, the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation program manager. Umanzor is also a graduate of Bowie High School, which was the first school in Arlington ISD to introduce a Hope Squad.
Amos was the first elementary school in the district to take part in the program and has done so for all three years. It was introduced for early intervention and catching the right signs of mental health.
“At the elementary level, we focus on making sure that the kids don’t feel left alone,” said Ifechukwude. “Ever since we’ve had the program, the number of times I’ve had a report has reduced.”
Amos’s fourth- through sixth-grade Hope Squad members come together twice a week to engage in team-building activities, talk about hope, create kindness posters and plan their school-wide initiatives.
“It’s a privilege to be in something like this because I know that people have to trust me,” said Amos Hope Squad fifth-grader Logan Johnson.
Twice a month, members also make classroom visits across their campus with fun activities to encourage self-confidence and inclusion.
Last month, they created the ‘magic mirror,’ where each student stood in front of the mirror and parent volunteers secretly complimented them and let them know that they were worthy.
“It’s so amazing for our community and our kids,” said Amos principal Crystal Green. “It’s a high need for them to be invested in themselves and know their worth.”
And it doesn’t end there. Every day, these students also script and share a positive quote on the school’s morning news.
“It’s inspirational, it helps the kids understand that whatever outside influences come their way, that doesn’t define who they are,” said Green. “It truly sticks with them.”
Spreading the message of hope has helped thousands of kids across the nation. Including the ones right here in Arlington ISD. So, say no to bullying and say yes to Hope Squad as they continue to help save lives! For more information on Hope Squad and how to get involved, visit their website. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide prevention lifeline at 988. You can also reach out to your school counselor for support.