JustServe, North Texas

1,300 youth gathered for the Texas-Sized Hope Squad Conference for mental health awareness

GARLAND – Over 1,300 youth from 120 campuses and 23 school districts in North Texas, gathered for the Texas-sized Hope Squad Conference for mental health awareness. It was held at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland on Oct 19th.

Hope Squad is a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. Hope Squad members are nominated by their classmates as trustworthy peers and trained by advisors. The program reduces youth suicide through education, training, and peer intervention. Hope Squad members are not taught to act as counselors but, rather, are educated on how to recognize signs of suicidal ideation and how to get their peers connected to a trusted adult. To learn more about the program, visit Hopesquad.com.

“According to the most recent Texas YRBS survey, 1 in 8 Texas teens contemplated suicide in the last year,” said Matt Vereecke, CEO of The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation. “Students selected to be members of Hope Squads are essential to reversing these troubling numbers. The Hope Squad conference is a place for them to learn, stay connected with their peers, and get additional support for this important work.”

“I’m proud of these young individuals who, through the simple acts of service, kindness, and leadership, are saving lives and helping their peers,” said Kevin Hall, president of Grant Halliburton Foundation. “This conference provides Hope Squad members an opportunity to learn more about how they can provide a safe and supportive space at their schools for students struggling with mental health and help reverse staggering statistics.”

The conference included a full day of engaging speakers and breakout sessions. The keynote speaker, Alex Boyé, a global artist and musician affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered an inspirational address. The event was emceed by Janeé Hill with Unbroken and also featured a visit from PINK the Bus.

Alex Boyé, a multicultural, multi-generational, global artist and musician and creator of the inspirational I Am a 10 song and video, shared his personal story of abuse and spoke about “I Am a 10!” His presentation focused on the worth of individuals and the importance of building self-esteem through positive self-talk and encouragement to others. He stated, “Hope is when you tell them to never stop working on who they are and always let them know they are 10’s. No matter how they feel about themselves that number will never change”. The students cheered as he inspired them with his words and music.

Volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ in the Garland, Wylie, and Richardson area congregations assisted with the lunch portion of the conference through JustServe. The students, in turn, expressed their gratitude for the volunteers, who were inspired by the enthusiasm and desire for positive change demonstrated by the attending youth in addressing the mental health crisis.

The Hope Squad Conference was made possible through the collaborative efforts of The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, Grace Loncar Foundation, and the Grant Halliburton Foundation – local nonprofits established in memory of loved ones lost to suicide.