Freshman class project sparks suicide awareness and prevention

What started as a class project quickly opened the eyes of many about the struggles some teens may be facing.

This week was Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week at Dowagiac Union High School thanks to one freshman English class and a challenge from their teacher to come up with an idea to benefit the school, community or world.

The class was initially split up into groups to come up with a plan.

Each group presented its plan to the class and community and a winner was chosen.

Then, the whole class worked together to make that plan a reality.
Dowagiac Union High School is the home of the Chieftains. The school colors are orange and black, but not Friday.

“I am wearing this yellow shirt. Our school is trying to tell people that we do care and this is our way of showing it,” says freshman, Kendall Rogers.

Dustin Cornelius's class is the reason this week was dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention.

“As an English teacher, I get journals all the time of kids who talk about suicidal thoughts and depression and stuff like that so it’s an issue that affects teenagers and it needs to be talked about,” says Cornelius.

“I have a family member who committed suicide, so it hit very close to home for me. Even though it was about eight years from now I still feel it every time I talk about it”, says freshman, Heather Stolpe.

During the week each student, no matter the age, was asked to sign a pledge saying they would help someone if they needed it or ask for help themselves.

With the help of the community, everyone that signed that pledge received a t-shirt and a bracelet.

“Our goal, our original goal was to get 100 t-shirts and we ended up with 710. Our original goal was $1,000, we ended up with $4000”, says Cornelius.

With a school filled with more than 600 students, all but 70 signed that pledge.

“It is amazing. I never would have thought that our whole class would do this for us”, adds Stolpe. “suicide is not the answer because I know for a fact that it was so much harder for my family to have to deal with it afterwards and everyone felt like it was their fault for not seeing it and not knowing in time and so I feel like this is really going to help a lot of people.

Dustin says helping just one person would make this all worth it, and they may have already done that.

He told WNDU one of his students took a picture on her bracelet, put it online and got a message back from someone saying, "I want you to know that that made a difference in my life”.

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