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Franklin Elementary School’s Hope Squad Leader, Isabel Gomez, holds a special surprise for her students as she sets up for their team meeting. As the children crowd into the library, they can’t help but brim with excitement. They notice the bright objects gripped in her hands. In one hand she holds a set of bright yellow lanyards and in the other hand she holds a set of black. Gomez smiles and delivers the good news to her students, “Your Hope Squad ID badges are finished!”
Inspired by Gomez’s personal identification badge, the young Hope Squad members thought that they should also have badges, so members of their school can easily identify them.
Due to their trusting and approachable character, these students were chosen by their peers and teachers to represent their school. Their role as a Hope Squad member is to help engineer projects that will instill empowerment and self-appreciation.
The Hope Squad badges are just one of the many ideas that these children have engineered. Another project they started involved educating their fellow peers on what they were learning in Hope Squad class. With permission from each teacher, the students would visit each class and share lessons like how to practice self-health or empathy.
The primary mission of Hope Squad is to prevent school age suicide, but only one lesson in the elementary curriculum addresses that specific topic. The majority of lessons are focused on fundamental life skills.
These lessons also focus on stress-coping mechanisms. During a recent class discussion, Gomez taught the children the difference between “good stress” and “bad stress.” She emphasized the importance of setting boundaries and shared a few coping methods.
To help illustrate the method, Gomez presented the students with a few objects they can use to de-stress. She pulls a few knick knacks out which include a soccer ball and a word search.
As the word search circles among the students, many of them proclaim, “Word searches stress me out! They aren’t relaxing!” This provides a pleasant teaching moment for Gomez where she explains that not all de-stressors are right for everyone.
When the soccer ball reaches a group of boys, it is quickly revoked by Gomez because it was becoming a distraction. This was a great example to her students. They could see that she (as an educator) also practices stress prevention methods.
The Hope Squads are an embodiment of positive change in the public schools of Provo. The children that participate in the program are shown how to lead. Lesson by lesson, example by example, these kids are internalizing the importance of having a strong and supportive community.
When they wear their lanyards that identify them as Hope Squad members, they believe that they are an important pillar in the social health of their school. They understand at a core level that they can play an important part in the lives of their peers and bring hope to those in need.