Parents rise up to lift students’ spirits
May 30, 2018 12:13PM ● Published by Jet Burnham
Parents hang uplifting messages in the school hallways. (Herriman High School PTA)
By Jet Burnham | firstname.lastname@example.org
News of the sixth Herriman High School student to take his or her own life this year hit parents hard. Many felt helpless. Others decided to act.
PTA President Denise Christiansen quickly responded with a campaign to get parents into the school to support students just two days after the latest tragic passing.
“I’m here because I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines,” said volunteer Kristine Anderson. “I wanted to come and try and just give any kind of assurance to these kids that they’re loved and noticed.” Anderson, who admitted she’s never been very involved with the PTA, decided to help at the school rather than wallowing in sadness at home. She was one of many volunteers enthusiastically welcoming students to the school, wishing them a good day and offering them mints and candy.
Volunteers committed to flank every school entryway, every morning, through the end of the school year.
“As parents, we kind of feel helpless—no one knows what to do,” said Shanae Freeman. “But we’re going to try with a smile and a greeting—and candy always helps.”
Kim McCann made sure she smiled at every student who passed her on their way into the school.
“I’m hoping to make a connection with teenagers and brighten their day,” she said. “I think that’s what we’re missing—real connection.”
Shandie Evans said her son, a senior, feels Herriman High School is so big, he sometimes feels lost. Parents said the rapid growth of the area and the subsequent influx of new students make it difficult for teens to get to know each other.
Garret Evans graduated three years ago.
“The school has grown a bunch since I’ve been here, and it was hard even then,” he said. He signed-up to greet students because he knows how it feels to lose a classmate.
Junior Hannah Freeman said students were grieving and didn’t know how to react. When parents were there to greet them, it made a difference.
“It feels like a better environment than it was yesterday—it feels really positive,” she said on the first day of the campaign.
Christiansen said her initial Facebook post was fueled by frustration—she rarely gets help from more than a few PTA members.
“When we have 3,000 students, four parents are not enough,” she said.
She was thrilled when volunteers quickly committed to continue helping at the school for the remaining weeks of the year. Parents signed up for “What’s Up Wednesday” to seek out and talk to students in the cafeteria. They implemented a kind words campaign, flooded social media with uplifting messages and decorated every car in the student parking lot with balloons and coupons donated by local restaurants.
Support even came from community members who don’t have children at the school.
“I didn’t expect as many people to step up as did, but they truly are just as concerned about the kids as we are and have made the effort to be here for our kids,” said Christiansen.
Volunteers felt like they were responding to the loss of six students by committing to not lose any more.
“If we can be here and do this one day a week and do this for our kids—what a difference it’s going to make,” said Evans.
Rosanne Delaney used her job as a crossing guard, just a few blocks east of the high school, to reach out to students of all ages. Wearing a large “You Matter!” poster, she waved enthusiastically to every car and smiled at the middle school and elementary students she helped cross the intersection.
“We don’t want any more of our kids to feel like if they were gone, nobody would miss them—because that’s absolutely not the truth,” said Delaney.
Students supported the PTA campaign as well. Golden Gate Club members peppered the campus with positive message sticky notes. They tied yellow ribbons around trees. Student Body Officers invited students to fold paper cranes of hope to string up in the commons area. Even students from neighboring Bingham High School joined in to help greet students in the morning.
Ryan Cherry, who just recently started the pro-social Golden Gate Club, said the community response made a difference for the school atmosphere.
“There’s a significantly different mood in the school today,” he said. “I walked in today, and I see smiles everywhere.”