March 23, 2022 — At the beginning of the school year, a survey was distributed to the entire student body at Siuslaw High. The survey asked which students were trusted by other students.
The purpose of this survey was to create a group of peer leaders, a group that was preferably not just the students who are a part of every extracurricular activity the school puts on, but the students who are looked up to by their classmates and friends.
The hope was that this group would be the best candidates to learn about a new program the Siuslaw School District is working to implement: Sources of Strength (SoS).
SoS’s mission is to provide the highest quality evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training, supporting and empowering both peer leaders and caring adults to impact their world through the power of connection, hope, help and strength.
SoS believes that many strengths are more powerful than one, and the united goal for the program is to activate and mobilize these strengths in ways that positively change individuals and communities.
On March 17, Siuslaw’s peer leaders met in the library for a meeting that gave a glimpse in the SoS program and how it’s being implemented at Siuslaw High.
After the meeting opened, the group immediately moved on to the play portion of the meeting led by Siuslaw High Assistant Principal Bev Scott. The day’s game was called the “Pterodactyl Game” and it appeared the goal was to look directly into your neighbor’s eyes and loudly emulate the sound of a pterodactyl.
Everyone appeared to be having a ton of fun. More than 50 high schoolers hung out in one big group, with no attempt to split up into small groups.
According to SoS, games can help learners mix, bond and become more comfortable, laying the groundwork for discussion and collaboration. Games can alleviate heavy emotions and simply bring more fun to the participants’ lives. Play is a helpful tool for connection, learning and enjoyment within a group learning context.
Next, the peer leaders broke up into random groups of 5-10 students and discussed generosity, one of the eight sources of strength, according to the SoS program. The other seven are physical health, mental health, family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities and spirituality.
After that, the students broke up into five groups led by a district staff member. Each group discussed and planned a campaign to help spread the word about SoS. The groups covered five categories: art, school events, social media, video and presentations.
From there, the art committee is planning a student art show.
The school events committee is trying to come up with a way to serve breakfast burritos to everyone in school as they arrive one morning.
Social media spent their time creating social media accounts on different platforms to get the word out about SoS events. They also work to spread positivity on not-always-positive social media platforms.
The video group is attempting to modernize morning announcements. Typically, school announcements have been an audio message the students hear over the school’s public address system. This group hopes to facilitate a change to video announcements moving forward.
Lastly, the presentation group was doing research on the opinions of the students who are not peer leaders about what sources of strength they use in hopes of spreading strength to everyone. They hope to use that research to make SoS part of school culture.
All these tasks that the individual groups are working on will hopefully help to achieve the most important goal for this entire program which is to get students to open up and talk to each other.
A basic rule of life seems to be when people get stuck in hard things, there is pressure on friends, families and bystanders to keep it quiet or try to handle it on their own. SoS is trying to change that.
SoS believes it is important to involve others because no one can handle everything by themselves. The program tells students that, especially in potentially life threatening situations like someone feeling suicidal, it is extremely important to connect to at least three or four sources of strength or support.
It appears this diverse group of students is well on its way to achieving the goal of breaking the silence when someone is struggling. These students are taking important steps to make sure their peers can be connected with the help they need and deserve.
For more information on the SoS program, go to sourcesofstrength.org. For information on the Siuslaw School District, visit siuslaw.k12.or.us.