Skip to main content

Draper Journal

HOPE week brings fun interaction to build connections at Summit Academy

Apr 22, 2021 08:37AM ● By Julie Slama

Yellow masks, representing the character Joy in the movie, “Inside Out” and the color of suicide awareness, were given out during Summit Academy’s HOPE week. (Lindy Hatch/Summit Academy)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“Do you ever look at someone and wonder, ‘What is going on inside their head?’”

In Pixar’s “Inside Out,” Joy said that, then stated she is able to tell what is going on inside the head of the main character, a girl named Riley.

While in real life that may not be a possibility, Summit Academy’s HOPE Squad wants students to be able to reach out and get the help and direction they need. HOPE (which stands for Hold On Persuade Empower) Squad is a school-based peer-to-peer suicide prevention program that began in Provo and now is in more than 950 schools across the United States and Canada. 

During their HOPE week celebration in late January, students designed activities to associate with many of the “Inside Out” characters, all carrying out a message of friendship and connection, said Alan Larson, HOPE Squad adviser.

"We wanted students to be able to connect with these five characters and do something together to build school unity,” he said.

On the first day of HOPE week, students could wear a pink top to represent the character, Bing Bong, and pink cotton candy was made and distributed to students.

The next day, students wore purple to tie into the character, Fear, and they wrote their fears on slips of paper. They then inserted the paper into balloons, then blew them up. In the school’s lobby, students jumped to “stomp out their fears.”

“Whether it was anxiety of a test or afraid to sing in front of everyone else, they were able to stomp them out together,” Larson said. 

On Wednesday that week, students represented Riley by wearing their shirts inside out and ate cereal together for breakfast before school, something the girl did in the movie. But it symbolized more than that, he said.

“Riley felt alone when she was new at the school and didn’t have anyone to sit next to. We’re wanting our students to get to know one another, sit with different people so HOPE Squad asked students to reach out and take that initiative to do something nice, sit with someone new or be kind to one another,” Larson said.

The next day, before school, students wore blue to represent the character Sadness and walked together as their HOPE walk.

“It was to symbolize walking out of darkness and into the light with the sunrise,” he said. “We had about 100 walkers and greeted them with hot chocolate and doughnuts.”

The last day of the week, students were given yellow masks to wear to represent the character, Joy. It also is the suicide awareness color. 

“We wanted students to do an act of kindness—pick up trash, compliment a teacher or do something just to make someone’s day,” Larson said.

Throughout the week, students had a card which kept track of their activities and by week’s end, they could trade it in for a silicon bracelet that had the word “Hope” on it and also receive a homework pass on an assignment.

Through these fun activities, Larson and the 20-member HOPE Squad hoped to convey the sense of community and the ability to open up with trusted adults in their community.

“Our HOPE Squad are our eyes and ears. They’re not counselors; we want them to assist their classmates in getting help if they are suicidal, showing signs of self-harm, stressed, depressed, showing anxiety, or just needing someone to talk to,” he said. “The first lesson covers QPR— question, persuade, refer.”

The team of seventh- and eighth-graders are enrolled in a HOPE Squad class where they have lessons to learn such as identifying signs of suicide or self-harm, how to approach peers, good listening traits and self-care, Larson said. It’s a program that has now been at Summit Academy two years and is designed to reduce youth suicide through education, training and peer intervention.

The team also introduces positive monthly activities on the campus.

In the fall when school started up after the abrupt closure last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students walked down a red carpet and HOPE Squad cheered their return, even opening the school doors to welcome their classmates back. The Squad also held a pumpkin carving contest for both in-person and online students. 

In February, they created a HOPE wall, with uplifting messages or positive quotes on sticky notes for the school, and a mini-HOPE wall for fifth- and sixth-graders who filled in the end of the sentence, “I’m amazing because…”

This spring, the HOPE Squad planned to make videos to share with elementary students about kindness to others and themselves and plant a HOPE tree before sending off the eighth-graders in May.

“We want to create a positive culture, a sense of belonging and connections at our school,” Larson said. “We’re building community.”