The Woodlands College Park support group creates hope for raising awareness of teen suicide, prevention
Teenagers at The Woodlands College Park High School are breaking the silence and stigma surrounding suicide by launching a student club called Cavs Joined for Hope.
Cavs Joined for Hope is a peer support network for students who may be struggling emotionally or with mental health issues in an effort to curb teen suicide. The club already has recruited more than 150 Cavaliers in the first couple weeks of school, and they are starting off the year strong.
In the spirit of National Suicide Prevention Week, which runs Sept. 6-11, Cavs Joined for Hope will host a series of community activities, celebrate random acts of kindness and host a community discussion on suicide prevention.
“The ultimate goal is to save lives, spread kindness, spread awareness and be there for each other,” Kimberley Hess, a resident of The Woodlands who enlisted students to start Cavs Joined for Hope, said about the week’s events.
The community discussion is the heart of Cavs Joined for Hope’s weeklong activities. “Breaking the Silence” will be from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, at The Woodlands Church. Dean Sikes, a traveling motivational speaker on a mission to “eradicate hopelessness,” will give the keynote address, followed by a Conroe ISD administrator, a counselor from Spring ISD and an executive from CHI St. Luke’s Health-The Woodlands.
The club will round out the week with a show of solidarity at the varsity football game, where the College Park Cavaliers will play Deer Park High School in Pasadena, Texas. The stadium is expected to be packed with purple, from players on the field to the band and cheer squad to the spectators, to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
The catalyst for Cavs Joined for Hope was the tragic loss of Hess’ daughter, Cassidy Jade Hess, a College Park student who committed suicide in December 2015. Since then, Hess has generated momentum around suicide prevention in The Woodlands community. Hess pooled her daughter’s close friends, and together, they created Cavs Joined for Hope in an effort to save lives.
“So many kids probably have these thoughts because there’s so much pressure between school activities and trying to get into college. More kids have these thoughts than we realize,” Hess said. “We lost too many of our teens to suicide last year; it was a hard year. So we’re going to take a stand to stop it.”
The club is open to all College Park students. It held its first meeting Sept. 1 and will meet at 2:45 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month in the LGI 2 room.
Cavs Joined for Hope – mirroring Cassidy’s initials – is financially supported by Cassidy Joined for Hope Inc., a nonprofit that was established Aug. 19. Hess said she expects the nonprofit to support other schools who would like to open a “Joined for Hope” chapter on their campuses.
“I think it’s getting bigger than what this club is all about. I think our community is wanting something larger, something they can donate to, to keep the conversation going,” Hess said about founding the nonprofit.
While the club started off as a safe haven to share feelings with peers and develop a support network of friends, College Park Principal Mark Murrell sees the club as changing campus culture. By forming authentic personal connections, students can develop empathy, respect, compassion and a desire to help others.
“I think the focus of this club is wonderful even though a tragic suicide is what started this program,” Murrell said. “This club, it’s more about how to positively interact with each other, how to treat each other with respect and make those quality comments to each other to lift each other up. It’s been about positive interactions and relationships.”
Murrell assigned a counselor to attend each Cavs Joined for Hope meeting. With a counselor present, students could get the help they need on the spot and maintain a positive atmosphere for the students to share their feelings.
“We have a counselor right there supplying support immediately and making sure the club continues in a positive direction,” Murrell said.
For more information about National Suicide Prevention Week events in The Woodlands and how to register, go online to CassidyJoinedforHope.com.