Sources of Strength Spotlight

Emma Schroeder, Writer

As classrooms, sports, and clubs have stopped due to COVID-19, one program at Washburn Rural High School has remained dedicated to its activity. The Sources of Strength campaign was developed as a result of increasing concerns regarding suicide within the high school community. This program is actively working hard to spread the word about its suicide prevention tactics and connect with students even as Kansas maintains a stay at home order. 

Sources of Strength was brought to WRHS through the mental health club. While the club has launched multiple community initiatives, it wanted to place a greater emphasis on suicide prevention specifically. After the mental health club was created, they parsed through multiple programs as options to implement at Washburn Rural. The club found that Sources of Strength was the best option, and began to work with administration to bring it to fruition. 

Mrs. Pegram and Mr. Swedlund, two of the WRHS staff members who are involved with the program, think that a core component in getting Sources of Strength started was having a diverse group of students get involved. These student leaders would provide unique perspectives that help them interact with the school community. The student leaders were chosen by teachers, coaches, and sponsors who nominated students to help with the foundation of the project with the title of “peer leader.” These nominated students got the opportunity to attend a one day training that prepared them for this leadership. 

“We had about 100 students nominated and about 55 who actually completed the training. However, it should be noted that this is not an exclusive group, on the contrary, we want to be as inclusive as possible, so anyone who is passionate or interested in suicide prevention and positive school culture should reach out to Mr. Swedlund, Mrs. Pegram or anyone of our adult leaders because we would love to have you involved,” Pegram and Swedlund said. 

As a result of the training, the peer leaders became ready to create change within their local communities and social networks. Currently, the group is working on a “Get the Word Out” campaign that attempts to gain awareness about the Sources of Strength program and the school wide campaigns that they will eventually launch. 

“There are tons of different ways to do school wide campaigns; the most important part is that they are driven by the peer leaders and attempt to reach the entire student body,” they said. 

Through these campaigns, the group hopes to fulfill the Sources of Strength mission statement. This excerpt from that statement is an amazing description of the program. 

“We are a group of diverse students and adults from many different corners and cultures of our school and community. We believe that life has ups and downs, that all of us will go through good times and tough times. Our mission is to ensure that during the rough times no one gets so overwhelmed or hopeless that they want to give up. Our mission is to spread Hope, Help, and Strength into every corner of our community.”

The current Coronavirus situation in the United States obviously complicates this mission. However, those involved with Sources of Strength are still working to spread their important message. They’ve utilized online meeting spaces to continue planning, getting more people involved, and encouraging healthy behaviors. One example is the release of their online

quarantine bingo sheet that helps suggest healthy activities during the student body’s stay at home. 

I think Sources of Strength is as important as ever with students dealing with complex and big emotions; so our group is tapping into how to cope, building our strengths, and what ways we all can reach out and connect to others while still abiding by state guidelines. We are continuing to hold weekly video meetings with our student and adult leaders. These opportunities for virtual connections are proving important and really helpful for maintaining a positive attitude and outlook. These meetings give us strength and help encourage us to spread messages of hope and strength to our friends, families, and communities – even if it is via the virtual world,” Pegram and Swedlund said. 

In terms of broader social connections, Sources of Strength is on multiple platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Currently, they are working on these platforms to emphasize a different strength each week and encourage the school community to connect with these sources. Each of the strengths make up what they call the Sources Wheel (pictured below), and they are a core tenant of the program’s message. 

“We are hopeful that whenever we transition back to school we will still be able implement more in person/personal campaigns, but for now, we have to be creative from a distance,” they said.