Hope Squad is Coming to Highland


The Highland Hope Squad kicks things off on their Instagram page with posters designed by Sami Solomon, the President of the Highland Hope Squad and the Highland Liaison of the SPA Hope Squad.

Malia Hansen, Associate Editor

“I didn’t even know about Hope Squad until I got to high school,” Sami Solomon admitted.

Fast forward to her junior year and she’s the founder and president of the Highland Hope Squad and the Highland liaison for SPA’s Hope Squad. Still, many don’t know what the Hope Squad is despite its life saving mission and the multiple suicides in the SLCSD that have happened in the last couple years.

Hope4Utah is a suicide prevention program started in Utah, and it seeks to lower youth suicide rates by creating Hope Squads at schools. Hope Squads are like school clubs that educate students on recognizing depression and suicide warning signs, along with how to deal with them. There are powerpoints, videos, worksheets and just a general resource for asking questions about mental health that are often shamed. The vice versa of Hope Squad reaching out to students, wherein students reach out to the Hope Squad, is essential to providing resources for students struggling with their mental health or suicide ideation.

“I think it’s really important, especially in high schools, to make it known that [students] can talk to somebody and not have to feel ashamed or scared of getting judged about it. I think Hope Squad really helps because you’re talking peer to peer,” Solomon said.

This peer to peer connection is essential, and thankfully there’s at least video chat to maintain human connection while also staying safely distant. Training sessions for students are being held online over zoom, and for parents or non-students who are interested there’s a multitude of educational resources and ways to get involved after a quick Google search of, “hope squad parents.”

Solomon is working to make the Hope Squad more than an educational resource though; she wants to truly create a comfortable and positive space for students to feel accepted and valued. Sometime after January, she hopes to do light-hearted activities similar to what the student council has done, like a gingerbread house zoom meeting. If COVID-19 cases are lower, she also hopes to do in-person community-building activities as well.

The pandemic has been somewhat of a community-destroyer for most, as social distancing and safety precautions drive the population stir-crazy and deep into isolation. For students, it’s been especially taxing on their mental health.

“It’s just hard getting stuck inside the house and not really having anywhere to go. You miss hanging out with your friends and you’re not having that in-person interaction with your classmates either…And school? Terrible. Terrible for your mental health. You’re sitting at a computer for six hours a day and you have extra homework after that…I think it’s had a really big impact [on mental health] so I’m glad we’re getting a Hope Squad started now because people who might be struggling now might join and feel better,” Solomon said.

The Hope Squad is an obviously necessary resource, a foundation pure of heart. So why has there been no Hope Squad until now? The answer seems to be partly publicity, as Solomon herself hadn’t heard of this program until high school and it’s still making a name for itself. Many haven’t heard of Hope Squad or Hope4Utah, and it’s still making a name for itself. Another piece of it is the coordination that this club takes; there have been Hope Squads that just don’t continue after a few years. Though, SPA has a successful Hope Squad, which Solomon works closely with; they’ve gone to a Halloween maze in the fall and gone ice skating at the Olympic Oval to raise awareness and raise peoples’ spirits.

“We tried to make sure that everyone knew they were loved and that they had a place to go if they needed to talk to someone; we really just made sure to have outreach available for everyone. We would be available during lunches, and if anyone needed to talk we would just be excused [from classes],” Solomon said.

It’s a relief to have the Hope Squad at Highland, and they start their first zoom on January 6. Most information and updates are given through their instagram page, @highland_hopesquad, and Solomon is always available via her email. They’re currently at nine members and plan to use this meeting to introduce themselves, brainstorm activities, plan the year ahead and schedule the next meetings for training. Suicide prevention is no small feat, but Solomon and her team are determined to help the Highland community.

“I just want to make Highland better. I know that sounds terrible and so basic…but I’m just hoping to make it a happier, better place that can help people with their mental health because schools kind of suck at that,” Solomon said.

And thus, students are stepping up to help Highland get up to date with providing adequate resources for its students.