Hope Squads Expand To Utah Elementary Schools
PROVO, Utah — School officials are expanding the Hope Squads program to reach elementary schools after helping junior high and high school students discuss mental health with their peers.
It may have seemed like an average school assembly, but everyone in a Provo school auditorium Wednesday was part of an elementary school Junior Hope Squad.
It was just the beginning of bringing the program to fourth, fifth and sixth graders at elementary schools across Utah County.
Social workers in elementary schools will tell you a junior Hope Squad creates safe spaces for all students.
“Hope Squad members know how to stand up for others and speak up and also tell trusted adults when things need to be handled by adults,” said Ang Scott, a social worker in the Provo School District who oversees Hope Squad students at two elementary schools.
While the Hope Squad concept pioneered by Greg Hudnall in Provo several years ago has proved successful in preventing suicide in Utah junior high and high schools, elementary schools in Utah are now looking at hope squads to provide help for emotional struggles young children are facing.
“What we’re finding is more and more younger people, younger kids in the elementary schools, are struggling with anxiety, being bullied, depression and what we have found is that having the Hope Squad there really helps find ways to connect with those students who may be struggling,” said Hudnall, Hope 4 Utah executive director.
School counselors said the squads have become an invaluable resource and they believe they are helping save lives.
“They are pretty much the eyes and ears of our school and so they’re able to share with us students what they are concerned about, and then we have school counselors can go in and teach coping skills and how to be resilient through these hard challenges,” said counselor Jana Wiltbank, who works in the Alpine School District.
School leaders said they believe by starting the conversation and having these junior Hope Squads in elementary schools, it will allow students to know where they can turn to find hope and possibly prevent future tragedies.
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