Plains Pilots Peer-Run ‘Sources of Strength’ Program
A pilot program at Plains Junior is just the start of a three-year health and wellness plan for all Lakota seventh and eighth grade students.
Sources of Strength is designed to be a companion to the high schools’ Hope Squad initiative, and it will roll out to the other three junior schools during second semester and next school year.
“We started the Sources of Strength Peer Leader Group at Plains to promote a positive school climate, healthy decision making and suicide prevention from the student level,” said Assistant Principal Justin Frost.
Plains teacher Jacob Shaw, who serves as the group’s advisor said, “The amount of stress and anxiety students are experiencing throughout these unprecedented times is astounding and there needs to be a healthy way for intervention. Sources of Strength was the perfect fit for such a need.”
Sources of Strength peer leaders were nominated by their teachers, and the students recently began their training sessions to recognize the ‘risk factors and warning signs’ early on so that they can help those in need to help.
Lakota is working with the 1N5 nonprofit organization to bring a number of prevention programs to the district. The mission of 1N5 is to prevent suicide by erasing the stigma of mental illness and promoting optimal mental wellness.
Recently 1N5 met with the fourteen student leaders at Plains to hold in-person, socially distanced training. The students learned about the eight Sources of Strength (such as mental health, healthy activities, physical health, family support and positive friendships) that people rely on when experiencing challenging times in life. The immersive training helped the students to identify their own areas of strength while encouraging students to pick one strength they can build up.
Shaw said the student leaders love the program and are excited to be able to help their peers better understand mental illness and help prevent communication breakdowns.
“Part of our work [initial training] is about helping ourselves,” said eighth grader Christian Wilkins. “When you’re at your best, you can help others be at their best too. The program is all about being there for someone when they don’t have someone else.”
Fellow student leader Ohemaa Amankwaa added, “Sometimes we need to stress a little bit to help us be our best self. This group is all about helping our peers figure out what to do if that stress gets to be too much. I love helping people. I’ve always been a helper, so Sources of Strength is a great fit for me.”
The peer leaders will meet twice a month to plan school-wide campaigns to promote the Sources of Strength to the rest of the student body in order to create a positive shift in school climate and culture.
Shaw said that relationships are at the center of the Sources of Strength model, by partnering caring, connected, and positive adult advisors with a diverse group of peer leaders from across the social network of the school. “One without the other lacks prevention power,” said Shaw. “Together, we can create a culture promoting wellness where students feel comfortable to get help when they are struggling emotionally, might feel suicidal, or are having a tough time with anger, anxiety, or depression.
“Sources of Strength is part of a broader prevention effort for the junior schools starting this year,” said Lori Brown, Lakota’s Director of Student Services. “We have partnered with NAMI to present the Ending the Silence suicide prevention and mental health awareness program to all of our 7th graders. We will also be partnering with Children’s to offer Adapting for Life to our 8th graders this month. 1N5 has helped us organize all of these partners.”
- mental health