BHS Sources of Strength encourages students to embrace positive mindset

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

A few Berthoud High School (BHS) students who want to spread positivity this school year figured the best way is through Sources of Strength.

Peer leaders Celsey Selland, left, Rowan Carr, L.T. Torres and Alex Schultz, who are with Sources of Strength at Berthoud High School, write thank-you notes during the lunch meeting Dec. 6 to volunteers of the blood drive the group organized on Dec. 4.

“It’s a really good organization just to support youth in making healthy life choices. It seemed like it was needed in our community to keep everyone in good spirits,” said Kimberly Brough, 15, a Sources of Strength peer leader and a 10th grader at BHS.

In March 2017, BHS joined Sources of Strength, a fee-based youth suicide-prevention and wellness program that aims to prevent suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse within schools and to change unhealthy norms and culture through the power of peer social networks.

Students interested in the program, which has offices in Englewood and Bismarck, N.D., are trained as peer leaders to become knowledgeable about tactics of suicide prevention and other youth issues. They encourage connectivity, school bonding, and help-seeking behaviors and plan events that get students involved in the school and the wider community.

BHS got involved with the program to address several longtime issues at the school, said Allison Lanter, an English teacher and the school’s teacher sponsor of Sources of Strength.

“Over the past several years we’ve had so many tragedies at the high school, including so many deaths by suicide,” Lanter said. “We’ve lost one to two students a year over the last 10 years by various causes.”

This year 40 students are involved in the program, which receives sponsorship support, after going through the training in spring 2017 to become peer leaders. A second training will be offered next semester following a peer-nomination process.

The students meet during the lunch hour every other Wednesday to discuss what the group wants to address and plan future events.

“It’s really about accessing what our school needs,” Lanter said. “We’re getting at the core of what Berthoud High School students need and trickling it out into the community. … It’s important they have a sense of resiliency. This is one way we’re trying to build that source of resiliency.”

The group organizes events that unite the student body and bring the community together, following a wheel with eight different sections of sources of strength. The sections include family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spirituality, medical access, and mental health.

The group’s first event was a blood drive Dec. 4 that fit within the medical access and generosity sections to provide a blood supply following recent hurricanes and shootings in the nation.

“We try to see where we can help in the community and the world,” said Cara Courtright, 15, a peer leader in the group.

The peer leaders work on smaller projects, such as handing out thank you notes before Thanksgiving to show teachers and mentors how they are sources of strength. They handed out a second set of notes following the blood drive.

“As of now, it’s just our group that did it,” Courtright said. “We want to expand it to where everyone gives out thank you cards.”

The peer leaders also are on the lookout for students who may be going through a tough time, to provide them with support, Brough said. They help them think about their sources of strength and how to identify negative thinking patterns and have a more positive mindset.

“It’s really just acknowledging that we do have positive things going on in our lives and being aware we have all these things helping us through negative times in our lives,” Brough said. “We can get through the hard times because of the sources of strength we have in ourselves and with each other.”

Sources of Strength is supposed to start small and, over time, expand its influence within the student body.

“The whole idea of Sources of Strength is, we start with small groups of kids in the school, and through them we teach other kids,” Brough said. “That’s what it’s about is creating a more healthy culture. It does take awhile. … It’s really about changing mindset. Eventually, in school, everyone is thinking that way.”

The group is in the planning stages for future projects, such as a toiletry drive following winter break to provide supplies for hurricane events. The members also plan to hand out candy canes before the break.

“I think it’s more than a positive mindset. It’s meeting other people,” Courtright said. “Yes, it’s a big part to get people in a positive mindset, but also meeting new people can help you find new sources of strength.”

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