Officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hope that the recently established HOPE (Helping Overcome Problems Effectively) Club will provide students with the support and information needed to prevent suicides.
The Parkland school club recently staged a kickoff event, a yogathon attended by more than 300 students, teachers, staff, administrators, local yoga instructors and area residents. The event was conceived by Pam Leal, a local yoga instructor whose daughter Bailey, a Stoneman Douglas student, committed suicide in May.
The event raised about $6,000, which will help fund the club’s activities.
Leal wanted to bring the community together and help teens reduce stress through yoga. She said her daughter was a bright, outgoing student and a standout athlete.
“When Bailey passed, so many people reached out to me,” said Leal, of Parkland. “I want Bailey’s life to be a legacy. She was a beautiful girl; what she did was hide her feelings, and it shouldn’t have happened.”
One of the people who reached out to Leal is Jackie Rosen, who established the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention after her son committed suicide 25 years ago and who last year established and provides the curriculum, information and handouts for the HOPE Clubs in 13 Broward schools.
In the past year, HOPE Clubs have been started at Blanche Ely, Boyd Anderson, Stoneman Douglas, Coconut Creek, Cooper City, Cypress Bay, Everglades, McArthur, Piper, Taravella and West Broward high schools.
“The purpose of the HOPE Clubs is to help teens understand that their problems can be solved, that they don’t need to become hopeless and helpless and feel that suicide is the only option to end their pain,” said Rosen, of Weston.
The club’s goal is to teach skills that help students learn to overcome problems effectively, said Laura Rountree, a school peer counseling adviser at Douglas and the club’s sponsor.
“The program focuses on suicide prevention, alcohol and drug prevention, anti-bullying, and teaching students how to be strong and make wise decisions and be a positive influence and support system for their peers,” Rountree said.
The group meets every Tuesday in a classroom, although a recent meeting drew 60 students and had to be moved to the cafeteria, she said.
Plans also call for training peer counselors in a five-week suicide prevention curriculum, adding a peer counseling presentation on suicide prevention that can be shared in classrooms, and having meetings on the subject with parents.
“We are very excited about our HOPE Club and opportunities to bring education to our students and community,” Rountree said.
For more information, visit Fisphope.org or call 954-384-0344.