Hope Squads promotes an inclusive environment in Utah schools

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MIDVALE — Finding solutions to America’s school shooting crisis is a daunting proposition. But a program flourishing in Utah schools offers hope.

Hope Squads create a culture that supports struggling students and gives everyone a voice.

Currently, there are Hope Squads in over 360 schools in Utah. They can’t stop school shootings, but Hope Squads works with schools to create an environment where it’s less likely.

“We walk into our classrooms and talk about these things,” said Munashe Tanjani, a junior at Hillcrest High School and a member of Hope Squad. “We say, ‘Hey, are you struggling? What’s going on? Here are some methods you can use.'”

“We attach hope to our bodies,” she said, showing off her Hope4Utah t-shirt. “And we say we’re advocates for hope, and we’re here for you and we see you. It may be the one thing someone needs to save their life, to change their life.”

Hope4Utah focuses on suicide prevention and intervention. But Hope Squads also prioritizes mental health and creating an inclusive environment where all students feel valued and supported.

“So that students, when they come here, know that they are important, that they are seen, that they are welcome and that they are safe in our school,” said Lisa Gardner, counselor of Hillcrest High School and Hope Squad. advise.

Gardner started the program at Hillcrest seven years ago.

Hope Squad members are trained to help other students, or even family members, when they are having difficulty and need support. In the classroom, they teach their peers about stress management, healthy living and how to recognize when someone needs help or adult intervention.

“We just want students to be nice and helpful,” Gardner said. “The more we are able to be in the classroom and encourage our students to be so, then hopefully we can finally have a culture in our school where all students feel welcome and important.”

Earlier this year, when rumors of trouble spread at school, Tanjani discovered the true value of Hope Squads.

“I got so many messages from people, ‘Hey, you’re in Hope Squad, aren’t you? There’s this thing I see around, did you see that?’ They sent me the photos and I went to see my advisers.”

No one brushed off the warning signs, she said, although no problems materialized. Concerned students contacted members of the Hope Squad.

“It was beautiful to see that as a whole school we came together to solve the problem and figure out what was going on, instead of ignoring it and something terrible happening.”

When students heard about the shooting this week, they supported each other.

“Consoling, like, ‘It happened, but I’m here for you,'” Tanjani said.

In Hillcrest, Hope4Utah has helped break the stigma of asking for help.

“We can solve a lot of problems if we just talk to each other,” Tanjani said.

The students involved in Hope Squad learn lessons for life.

“I’ve had Hope Squad students graduate, go to college, and come back and say, ‘I used the information that I learned from being in Hope Squad,'” a said Gardner.

Click here for more information on Hope Squads.

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