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Draper Journal

Alta High students win spirit contest, put money in programs to help classmates

Sep 30, 2019 11:27AM ● By Julie Slama

Alta High students are all smiles after winning the Canyons high school cheer-off sponsored by the Shops at South Town. (Photo courtesy of Susan Edwards/Canyons School District)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Before school began this fall, Alta High student leaders gathered their classmates and community members to face other high schools in a cheer-off — where the Hawks prevailed as the spirit champions.

With mascots, sports teams, clubs, student body officers and cheerleaders, the spirit soared for the Hawks, Chargers, Huskies and Beetdiggers recently at the Shops at South Town.

“It was the loudest noise I have ever heard,” said Susan Edwards, Canyons Education Foundation public engagement coordinator. “Each school had 100 to 200 supporters cheering, but Alta had the largest crowd. They measured the noise by decimal level and Alta’s reached the highest.”  

Alta High Assistant Principal Kelli Miller said their cheerleaders lead their supporters in cheers during a five-minute period.

“It was a lot of fun and the cheers just bounced off the walls inside South Town,” she said.

Then, the Hawks showed their true champion spirit by giving the money to social-emotional programs at their school that support their classmates, Miller said.

 “They won $500 for wellness services, which they are giving to Hope Squad and Link Crew. It’s one of our focuses, with our school improvement plan, to better support students,” she said.

Edwards said the Shops at South Town wanted to participate in the annual Tools for Schools school supply fundraiser, but suggested this spirit contest as a way to target supporting social-emotional programs at the high schools. 

At the competition, there were booths with supportive materials, including information about the statewide SafeUT electronic device app, which provides real-time crisis intervention with counselors to youth through texting as well as a confidential tip message to school administrators on bullying, threats, violence and depression. 

At Alta, Miller said the winnings will be put to good use.

Half of the funds will be given to the Hope Squad that meets during the school’s advisory or homeroom period.

“They’ll do more outreach with students and give lessons once per month on coping with stress, self-confidence, motivation, resiliency and tools that will help them with school,” she said.

Through the Hope Squad, advisers train students to recognize signs of suicide contemplation and how to report this to an adult. This program enhances the procedures schools may already have in place, but also it educates students how to interact with, listen, watch and support fellow students who may be struggling, she said.

In high school, with students wanting to belong, having anxiety and shyness, or fears about test taking, it can be hard, but through Hope Squad, they hope to provide some assistance as it serves as the “eyes and ears of the school.”

At Alta, about 50 students are involved in the squad; all have been nominated by peers to apply.

“We want kids to identify their peers who they are comfortable with and would reach out and talk to,” Miller said.

The other half of the winnings were given to the school’s Link Crew, which recently ran freshman orientation.

Link Crew is a national high school transition program that welcomes freshmen and makes them feel comfortable and adjusted throughout their first year of high school. Through positive role modeling, Alta’s upperclassmen act as mentors to guide freshmen through steps on how to be successful from academics to social engagement during high school.

“It’s great for our ninth graders to have mentors, to get answers to their questions, to make connections, to have friends or even tutors,” Miller said. “They too will give lessons on getting involved and study skills to help freshmen as well as hold activities, such as a tailgate party, to welcome everyone.”

Miller said the high school climate has changed. 

“Anxiety, depression and suicide are going up nationwide, in the state and at Alta. No one is immune. Teens are needing to learn to cope and preserve as some researchers say there is more pressure and it’s not a viable option not to succeed anymore. With social media, there is no escape from it all just by being at home,” she said. 

While “Lifelines: Helping A Comprehensive Suicide Awareness and Responsiveness Program for Teens,” a comprehensive, schoolwide suicide prevention program, is one component of the 10th-grade curriculum, Alta also has dedicated a full-time social worker and a full-time school psychologist to help counselors as well as having six counselors to help students. 

“In the first three days of school, we received three SafeUT tips that our social worker has followed up,” Miller said.

In addition, Alta has two full-time employees who are called “check and connect aides” and do just that — meet weekly with students who may be struggling socially, emotionally or academically and check in with them.

“If we can make more connections and let students know people care and are here to help, we can help them keep on track with their grades, resolve any conflicts with social media and peers, and let them know they’re a valued part of our community,” Miller said. “Honestly, there’s a need for these aides at every school. It’s not that kids are lazy, but it’s that we need to reach out and connect with every student and provide enough resources for them.”