Hope Week starts Jan. 23 at Westerville’s high schools

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The Hope Squads at all three Westerville high schools are kicking off Hope Week on Monday, organizing events and activities that promote hope, spread kindness and raise awareness about suicide prevention.

“We want to make sure everyone knows there’s always somebody in the building that is willing to listen to them and actually cares what they are going through, that they are not alone,” said sophomore Aashvi Soni, a Hope Squad student leader at Westerville Central High School. 

“And we want to make sure everyone feels safe and happy in our school.”

Hope Week is an event all Hope Squads across the nation organize to spread positivity and give hope to their peers, often during the wintry months of January and February. At Westerville, Hope Squad groups at each high school have mapped out lunchtime activities and daily spirit themes for their schools. 

At Westerville South High School, students can send messages of kindness through candy grams to staff and students. Students can also enter into a raffle for various gift baskets by filling out an Apple Award for a teacher or writing a Peer Shout Out. 

At WCHS, Hope Squad student leaders will host a table with different activities each day. Thursday’s “Shred Your Stress” activity, for example, involves students writing what they are stressed about on paper and bringing it to the Hope Squad table where they can shred it. On Friday, Rocky, a therapy dog with the Genoa Township Police Department, will visit students during lunch with his handler, Genoa Middle School School Resource Officer Jason Berner. 

During the school’s advisory period, students can share how they are feeling through mental health check-in activities. 

All three groups are kicking off the week on the same note: greeting their peers with hot chocolate when they arrive at school Monday morning.

“I’m looking forward to it,” junior Malania Westbrook, a Hope Squad student leader at Westerville North High School. “It will be fun meeting new people and showing that we care.”

In addition to the events during the school day, the three Hope Squads will be recognized during basketball games next week for their work in the building and plan to have tables where they can promote and share information about their program. 

“Hope Week is designed to reduce the stigma around mental health,” said senior Thauany De Oliveira, a WSHS Hope Squad student leader. “What we want people to get out of it is spreading kindness and empathy and making sure people are aware that we are here and mental health is a real thing.”