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GBHS Hope Squad in First Year of Promoting Mental Health Awareness and Support

Grand Blanc Community Schools is proud to announce the establishment of the Hope Squad at Grand Blanc High School in the 2023-24 school year. Hope Squad is a nationally recognized, student-led initiative aimed at fostering mental health awareness and student resilience through a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. Students are supported by a team of staff members led by (Social/Emotional Learning) SEL Director, Betsy Kato. Mrs. Kato also serves GBCS as the principal at Myers Elementary. Kathleen Riek, Stephen Kennedy, and Anna Foltz are GBHS Staff Advisors for Hope Squad. They are also heavily supported by the GBHS Counseling Office.

The students of GBHS Hope Squad were nominated for membership by their fellow students. They meet regularly to discuss the warning signs of distress and train in the resources available to support mental well-being. Guided by the belief that every student deserves to feel supported and heard, these compassionate, trusted students serve as confidants and sources of encouragement, helping to bridge the gap between students and adults. They identify themselves by wearing Hope Squad lanyards and t-shirts/sweatshirts. They recently hosted Hope Week, which included activities and spirit days at GBHS to introduce students to their existence and mission.

The group also put together an advisory lesson for GBHS students which focused on the warning signs of suicide and resources for help. They included the story of Deegan Walton (TW), a Holly High School senior who committed suicide just last fall. Deegan’s mom, Lori Walton, uses TikTok, the Deegan Project, and other avenues to tell their tragic story and help prevent teen suicide. This connection to a local teen’s story was very impactful to students. An anonymous note left after Deegan's death said "Please don't give up. What if you wake up tomorrow and that's the day everything changes? Tomorrow Needs You!" GBHS Hope Squad has embraced this sentiment, adorning t-shirts and sweatshirts worn by members that say "Tomorrow Needs You!" on the back. 

This week, three GBHS student Hope Squad members: Riley Jakeway; Ava Zagata, and Vaasu Patel were selected to serve on the Hope Squad National Council! We are extremely proud of these students and their ambition to improve school culture on a broader scale.

Hope Squad's implementation aligns with the district's Strategic Plan and its ongoing efforts to create a positive and nurturing school environment where every student feels valued and supported. By empowering students to play an active role and provide peer support, GBCS hopes to increase empathy and resilience that will extend beyond the classroom walls.

Hope Squad will continue to engage in various activities and initiatives to promote mental health awareness and destigmatize mental health issues into the next school year. They will also work closely with school counselors, teachers, and administrators to ensure fellow students have access to the support and resources they need to thrive - academically, socially, and emotionally. Eventually, the SEL team plans to expand the Hope Squad model into the middle schools. We encourage students, parents, and community members to support Hope Squad and its mission. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a great time to research how you can help improve mental health. If a Grand Blanc student you know is dealing with mental health issues, please reach out to a student advisor, liaison, counselor, or trusted adult (or if you’re a GBHS student - a Hope Squad member). Anyone nationwide can also report concerns anonymously through OK2Say. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 at 988, or text TALK to 741741 to speak to (or text with) a trained counselor. If self-harm is occurring or about to occur, dial 911.