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South Jordan Journal

Bingham Hope Squad students receive first-ever Healthy South Jordan award

Feb 23, 2022 06:33PM ● By Julie Slama

Not expecting any award, Bingham High Hope Squad members received a standing ovation from the Jordan School Board when they received the Healthy South Jordan Hero Award for their exceptional work in mental health and suicide prevention. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

About 35 Bingham High Hope Squad members stood before Jordan School Board where they were met with a standing ovation. These students were the first to ever receive the Healthy South Jordan Hero Award.

The award was presented to the group for their exceptional work in mental health and suicide prevention by South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey, who serves on the Healthy South Jordan coalition.

“I have the privilege of recognizing some outstanding students from Bingham High School,” she said. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration in any way for me to say if more of us, more of everyone in society, made a deliberate effort to do what these young people do, our world would be a different place, a better place. It’s what they do for their peers at Bingham High School. They have a significant impact on goodness, on inclusion, on friendship and on belonging and all the things that go into these days – mental health, physical health, emotional health – to being a teenager right now.”

She read and presented the group with a framed certificate: The “Healthy South Jordan Hero Award is proudly presented in 2022 to the Bingham High Hope Squad for their caring, compassion, understanding, sensitivity, support, generosity, creativity, intelligence, courage, optimism, humility, resilience, diligence, and dependability in promoting healthier behaviors, giving hope and support to those who are struggling, and assisting others in time of crisis.”

Healthy South Jordan is a coalition organized with key community leaders and partners to improve the mental and physical well-being of South Jordan residents through education, family and activities.

The Healthy South Jordan award was initiated during the process of establishing the coalition to give to people or organizations “who bring light and hope during dark times. Recipients are nominated for helping or giving hope to people during those critical times,” said Jason Cloward, Healthy South Jordan co-chair. “The idea is to strengthen the community bonds and highlight these people who are helping encouraging people to move forward. Ultimately, we want to create a culture of caring and helping.”

Coalition Chair Brian Synan said he was impressed with the students.

“Everything they do for the school, and that’s a big school, and for the Hope Squad to make sure that people are happy when they need help with certain things, it’s an amazing thing,” he said.

Cloward said that while the coalition will be presenting more awards in the upcoming months, this group was a clear choice.

“The fact that they’re in their young years and choosing to care about other people and influencing their peers, that's something that will likely carry with them their whole life trajectory,” he said. “That sheer impact they have as a young group made them stand out.”

In addition to being recognized, the group received a framed certificate, blue beanies and a voucher from Mulligan’s Golf.

The Hope Squad was nominated by Kit Curtis, who is both a member of Healthy South Jordan and a mental health specialist in the school.

Students apply to be part of Bingham’s Hope Squad, which was changed from a before-school extracurricular activity into a class two years ago. They’re trained to be the “eyes and ears” of the school community, referring students who need help to a counselor, trusted adult, or the SafeUT app. They also host events at school to make it a welcoming, inclusive community.

This school year, Hope Squad members greeted students at the front doors, welcoming them back to school, Hope Squad teacher Rene Bair said.

“They handed kids Lifesavers and said, ‘we’re so glad to have you here,’” Bair said.

The group sponsored “Hello Week” to make a connection between students and the school community and included positive messages written on the sidewalk outside of the school. They also let their peers know they are available if they need a friend to sit with at lunch or just talk. The group also participated in True Blue, the school’s charity fundraiser and will hold a “Hope Week” this spring.

“We’re going to be giving presentations to other schools and hope to talk about hosting a Hope Walk for suicide prevention,” junior Elsie Anderson said. “Last year, we held an Easter egg hunt with inspiring messages in the eggs. It was a lot of fun so we’re talking about doing that again.”

Sophomore Miriam Fjeldsted, who had friends who were part of the Hope Squad, joined the group to help others. She said as a former South Jordan Middle School ambassador she hopes to be part of the team that reaches out to middle schools this spring and teaches them about what Hope Squad does.

Junior Avery Bensen, who also was a middle school ambassador, said she joined this year after knowing so many people are coping with anxiety and depression.

“I just wanted to help people, but what I’m finding is that it’s helping me, too,” she said. “We learn mindfulness tips and it’s making me be calmer and have a different perspective,” she said.

Curtis teaches a mindfulness activity weekly with the students and “when they go through something, they can remember what they can do to help themselves to be present or concentrate on their breathing, and also help others who may be a little anxious and need to step away for a bit,” Bair said. “Those types of self-care things that Kit has taught them have been a huge asset.”

Through working with students, Bair said Curtis has gotten to know the Hope Squad.

“I think he has gotten to know the students and see how committed they are to helping others,” she said about his nomination for the award. “Just their compassion, I think, was one of things that struck with him and the coalition, of how willing the kids are to learn and reach out and help others in our school.”

Bair said that the group learned in December they would receive the award.

“I think some of them were a little confused because they’re not expecting any type of accolade or anything from being on Hope Squad,” she said. “As the day got closer, and especially at the school board meeting, I think that’s when it just hit them because it’s such a big deal. They were treated like celebrities; first the board gave them the standing ovation, then when we were on the stairs, everyone was there taking pictures. You could just see in their faces and in their posture that this award made a huge impact on them.”