A source of connectivity

Sources of Strength promotes mental health and connects students

Members of Sources of Strength brainstorm ways to promote their mental health campaigns.

Members of Sources of Strength brainstorm ways to promote their mental health campaigns.

Rachel Gortney, Social Media Manager

Thirteen years is the amount of time it takes to get a public education in the United States.

Thirteen years, is the amount of time students in these public education systems have to get to know each other. But for students attending a high school with over 2,000 students, sometimes 13 years is not enough time to know their classmates.

A large part of the high school’s student body never interacts, even though they all struggle with the same basic problems. That is what the new program Sources of Strength hopes to bring to light. Sources of Strength is a peer-based program designed to unite students for a common cause, mental health.

“All students struggle with the ‘big three’ anger, depression and anxiety,” Sources of Strength adviser Heather Zapolnik said. “Sources of Strength brings together students of different races, socio-economic backgrounds, and social standings.”

Sources of Strength started at the end of last school year, but it has been a work in progress for years. Several years ago, the CDC named Stark County a suicide contagion county, the number of suicides were going up and the counseling team knew they had to do something. So Sources of Strength was born.

“The goal for Sources of Strength is to change the culture at the school,” Zapolnik said. “We want to create a positive environment for all students.”

Creating a positive environment includes encouraging students to create a dialogue about mental health and speaking with their peers about it.

“I feel like people are more comfortable talking about their struggles now,” junior Alayna Hill said. “Especially with Sources of Strength, we have all our social media to connect with students.”

Members of Sources of Strength create campaigns to advocate for mental health awareness. This month they are working on their “What helps me?” campaign where they ask students what helps them work through the big three emotions.

“Last year we set up a table in the cafeteria where we had students come up and write down something they thought was a strength about themselves,” junior Ja’Nya McNeal said. “Students came up to us, talked to us, and really opened up. It really felt as if it unified the student body.”

Unifying a student body of 2,004 is not an easy task but it is exactly what Sources of Strength is doing.

“I love the community Sources of Strength is building,” junior Bryana Wilkins said. “I have met so many people I probably wouldn’t have talked to. A lot of groups just have one type of person but we have so many different types of people that bring a bunch of different ideas.”

Sources of Strength is a completely student-based organization with 60 to 70 peers nominated by their teachers. The students represent all aspects of the high school, many students did not know each other before Sources of Strength.

“The thing is no matter who you are you struggle with mental health,” Hill said. “Sources of Strength takes something we all struggle with and brings people, who might not have known each other before, together.”

Sources of Strength connects students from every corner of the school while also promoting mental health awareness.

13 years is not enough time to get to know everyone in a large school, but it is enough time to make connections with people even those outside of your usual sphere. Sources of Strength’s programs encourage students to do just that, making the school just that much smaller.