In late January, 14 sixth through eighth grade students from Arizona Charter Academy (ACA) in Surprise attended the Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life conference at the GCU Arena.
As Minette Klenner, Dean of Student Services and an 8th grade Social Studies teacher at ACA noted, this is the second year in a row that the students from the Empower and Leadership class have been able to attend the conference, which encourages students to be aware of warning signs of depression, suicide, grief, abuse and bullying.
“The purpose of the Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life conference is to empower our students to speak up to a trusted adult when they see someone showing any of these warning signs,” Klenner said, adding that when the students returned to the campus they were required to create a project that will help other students to also be inspired to Stand Up, Speak Up, Save a Life.
“The students have to create a project that will involve the entire community, including students, teachers, families and the support of our community law enforcement.”
After the project is planned and implemented, its success must be reported back to the conference organizers, Klenner said. Having community members present to help the students plan and then carry out their project is an important part of their learning how to trust an adult when they feel a friend or themselves are in need of help, she added.
“The students have decided to have a party called #Justbethere and give all middle school students a T-shirt during the event that everyone can write positive messages on,” Klenner said, adding that Michelle Miller, a Licensed Speech Language Pathologist Assistant and Special Education Teacher at ACA, is also helping with the project.
The party will take place on Friday, March 29 during lunch, and each student will receive a free designed T-shirt with the hashtags printed on it. During a food fest and music-filled afternoon, everyone will be able to write a positive message on everyone else’s shirt, Klenner said.
By working in conjunction with the Surprise and El Mirage Police Departments and community members, the students are hoping to raise enough money to buy the shirts and meals for all 278 middle school students. Klenner said students hope to raise $2,000 to pay for the t-shirts and the BBQ lunch. Those who are interested in donating may call ACA’s middle school front office at 623-974-4959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Then, after the party is long over, when students go home and are having a rough time, they can always look at their shirts and remember why they count and why they matter,” Klenner said.