Dixie State University’s Hope Squad is up and running, but they are still altering their content to best help university-level students.
The Hope Squad, dedicated to help prevent suicide on campus, currently has 14 members, and they have just completed their third week of training.
“The Hope Squad program is primarily in middle schools and high schools at the moment,” said Sarah Ramaker, student body president and a senior dance major from Midland, Michigan. ”Therefore, the group that we have right now is helping to revise and update the current [Hope Squad training] content.”
DSU’s Hope Squad will be one of the first Hope Squads implemented on a college campus in Utah. DSU would have to add training courses that high schoolers wouldn’t need and blaze the trail for other universities.
“The difference between a high school and a college level Hope squad is that as students mature in education, they may have more struggles including moving away from home or feeling lonely because they have a hard time making friends,” said Sutherland Wyatt, a junior exercise science major from Paradise, California. “We are trying to develop a program that recognizes the difference between high school and college and reflect that with what kind of examples and activities we use to demonstrate how to approach a suicide conversation.
Wyatt said DSU’s Hope Squad is currently using the high school guidebook and critiquing it to fit the college’s needs.
“[The Hope Squad] is the perfect resource to help identify individuals with needs before their problems escalate,” said Ezra Hainsworth, student body president-elect and a junior communication major from St. George. “With a closer and more affordable Health and Wellness Center, we hope to be able to take advantage of the resource and encourage students to find refuge with Hope Squad members and staff at the [new] Health and Wellness center.”
Hainsworth advocated for student health as an important part of his campaign for student body president. He said he wants students to feel comfortable talking to him if they need anything.
“With the plans that we have made, most of the promotion will be going out next year,” Ramaker said. “With the program still growing, we are still learning how it can best serve the students of [DSU].”
Senators within academic departments will reach out to students who they feel would be a good addition to the squad. Hainsworth said the program is all about building trusting relationships.
“The best part about the Hope Squaders is they are trained to identify students that may be dealing with suicidal thoughts because it can be hard to ask for help when dealing with such a serious, personal issue,” Hainsworth said.
Although the Hope Squad is currently a group on campus, Wyatt said the Hope Squad will look to expand more next semester once they have an opportunity to start from the beginning and promote themselves around campus more.