On Thursday, October 19, more than 1,400 Hope Squad members from across North Texas gathered at the second annual Texas-Sized Hope Squad Conference to connect and learn from others how to break the stigma of mental health and provide help and hope to their fellow students and communities. There were 70 Hope Squads from 29 North Texas school districts, charter and private schools. Alex Boyé, a multicultural, multigenerational, global artist and musician and creator of the inspirational “I Am a 10!” song and video, will give the keynote.
The conference featured a day of dynamic speakers emceed by the amazing Janeé Hill with Unbroken and included a visit from PINK the Bus. The conference, hosted at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, was presented by a collaboration of The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, Grace Loncar Foundation, and Grant Halliburton Foundation, local nonprofits founded in memory of a loved one lost to suicide.
Hope Squads are the eyes and ears of a school, students trained to watch for at-risk peers, provide friendship, identify warning signs, and seek help from adults. Hope Squad works with school advisors to train students identified by their classmates as trustworthy peers to serve as Hope Squad members. Through evidence-based training modules, Hope Squad members are empowered to seek help and save a life. 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.
"I'm proud of these young individuals who, through the simple acts of service, kindness and leadership, are saving lives and helping their peers," Kevin Hall, president of Grant Halliburton Foundation, said. “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.”
Currently, there are more than 3,000 Hope Squad members on more than 200 Hope Squads across North Texas. The Hope Squad students were invited to the conference to connect with members from other schools around the state, build a network of support and learn and collaborate with one another.
“According to the most recent Texas YRBS survey, 1 in 8 Texas teens contemplated suicide in the last year,” Matt Vereecke, CEO of The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, said. "Students selected to be members of Hope Squads are an essential part of 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."
The conference sponsors included Lyda Hill Philanthropies (Hope Sponsor); Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation and Doing Life Unbroken Together (Gratitude Sponsors); Dallas Stars Foundation and Vincent Genovese Memorial Foundation (Kindness Sponsors); Cook Center for Human Connection, Cook Children’s and Children’s Health, YAM, Youth Aware of Mental Health (Encouragement Sponsors); All4Cheer, Bumble Bee Yoga, Dallas Wings, Hope Squad and Texoma Health Foundation (Friend Sponsor).
About Grant Halliburton Foundation
Grant Halliburton Foundation was established in 2006 in memory of a Dallas teen who battled depression and bipolar disorder for several years before his suicide death at the age of 19. The Foundation that bears his name works to help families and young people recognize the signs of mental illness through a variety of avenues including education, conferences, collaboration and encouragement. Since 2006, the Foundation has provided mental health education, training and support to more than 300,000 students, educators, parents and professionals. The Foundation also offers Here For Texas, which includes HereForTexas.com and the Here For Texas Mental Health Navigation Line. These free community tools aim to offer easy access for North Texans seeking mental health and addiction information and resources. Learn more about the Foundation at GrantHalliburton.org.