Chap family finds Sources of Strength
PARKER--With the recent deaths of the Legend High School students, the community of Parker is very fragile right now. Knowing where to turn for support in times like this is crucially important.
Chaparral High School students, teachers, and staff are still recovering from three student deaths last year, plus a fourth the year prior.
“I have the best counseling team in the country,” Chaparral’s Principal, Greg Gotchey, said. “So I went to them and said what can we do. When we say ‘Chap family’ what does that mean?”
Eric Mullens is the Department Chair of the Counseling department at Chaparral, and he has been with the school since its inception.
“Chap family has always been a big part of who Chaparral is,” Mullens said. “This started at the very beginning with Dr. Mary Gill, the first principal. Then it carried over to [former principal] Ron Peterson, and now to Greg.”
They started looking at their programming, especially their suicide prevention programming.
“Everybody does the same thing,” Mullens said. “If you know of a friend in trouble, tell an adult. If you can’t tell an adult, call 911. The kids learn these things back in Kindergarten. We said, that’s not working anymore. We’re still having kids that, when they’re in a tough spot, they are taking the ultimate way out, and we want to stop that.”
This school year, Chaparral implemented Sources of Strength in the school. The wellness program uses the combined power of peer relationships and caring adult relationships to improve social norms and enhance social support.
“Sources is about ‘what are the areas of your life that you can depend on?’” Mullens said. “‘When things are tough, who do you go to?’ For me it’s my family. Or I’m going to go to my friends. For some students or faculty members, it might be spirituality.”
There are eight segments of the Sources of Strength pie. If students cannot identify a Source of Strength that they can go to, the counseling department will help find one for them.
As Gotchey, Mullens, and the counseling department began exploring implementation in the school, the interest from students and faculty at informational meetings was overwhelming.
“They told us ‘if you can get 10 to 20 teachers to be faculty advisors for this that would be amazing.’ We had 80. ‘If you could get 60 kids to do it…’ We had 120 give up their first day of their spring break to come and do it at 7:00 in the morning,” Gotchey said.
Signs of this are visible throughout the school. At the front doors there is a mosaic of colored papers, representing the different colors of the Sources of Strength pie, in which kids wrote down the people they can go to. Orange paper chain links run up and down the main hallway at the front of the school, each with the names of family members of the students. These things are helping to solidify relationships in the building.
“One of the teachers said she saw a kid sitting there, just struggling to fill this out, and he said ‘I don’t have family,’ and the teacher said ‘well, put your name on that one and we’ll tie it to the Chap family,” Mullens explained. “What a strong message.”
They are doing other activities to further implement the messages of Sources of Strength. Wish Week is an ongoing tradition where this works. They are also doing a family game night, a movie night, and other things.
Student government is actively breaking down barriers between students, as well. This year, they proactively invited kids from each club at the school to be a voice on student government.
“I think that sense of family is here more than any other place that I’ve been,” said Gotchey.
“You see it at sporting events. You see it during Wish Week. You see it in the canned food drive. You see it in the lunchroom. You get the sense that these kids take care of one another,” Gotchey added. “We want to teach kids what that means. It doesn’t always mean I’m going to drop everything I’m doing to do something for you, but what it means is I’ll drop everything for you if you need it and to show you that you have the strength to get through this. That’s where the Sources of Strength, blended with our traditions, is really blossoming this year.”