With kindness and compassion, a group of Ralston Middle students are doing what they can to make sure their peers are safe and happy.
This year, RMS introduced its first-ever Hope Squad to ensure students are getting the support and help they need.
The squad, which is comprised of 19 seventh- and eighth-graders, is a peer based suicide prevention program aimed to help students in their time of need.
To form the squad, Melissa Sedlak, RMS counselor, talked to students and asked them which of their peers they trusted, felt had a niche for kindness and displayed good listening skills.
Based on their answers, the 19 students were recruited.
“There was very little adult input when it came to who was going to be on the Hope Squad,” Sedlak said.
“We wanted students who other kids would talk to. If a kid isn’t willing to talk to that other student, it’s not an effective team.”
To prepare the squad for their duties, Sedlak, math teacher Aimee Supanchick and resource teacher Kory White trained the squad on a variety of topics.
In training, students learned about depression, how to recognize signs of suicide, reach out to their peers and how to refer students to a trusted adult.
Throughout the school year, students meet with the program sponsors and continue to think of ways to let students know they are not alone.
Sedlak said this year she has received more student reports than past years.
“I feel like those kids that we did train and are on the Hope Squad are out there talking to students,” she said.
“It’s starting to make a difference and I’m excited to see it continue to grow.”
The last week of April, students celebrated Hope Week. Throughout the week, the Hope Squad greeted students with bright smiles, hugs, high fives, compliments and candy.
“The idea is to spread positive messages and to get students to feel like someone cares,” Sedlak said.
With a positive welcoming, Sedlak said she felt students had a better outlook on their day.
“They are grateful for the compliments in the morning and the candy that’s being handed to them,” she said.
On Friday, students celebrated the end of Hope Week with a pep rally. Throughout the week, students voted on which teachers they wanted to see get pie in the face by placing money in that teacher’s buckets.
The pep rally raised a total of $250 for the Reid Adler Memorial Kindness Scholarship fund.
Through Hope Squad, Sedlak said she wants to empower students and give them a chance to make a difference.
“They feel purposeful. They know there is something they can do when they see someone who is upset,” she said.
The program, Sedlak said, will also help develop leadership and communication skills. But above all, it will give students the opportunity to get help.
“I’m excited to see how things change,” Sedlak said.