“Empowered youth creating change through activities”
REACH’s Students Offering Support (SOS) was created after December’s (2016) TXT4Life suicide prevention training in Grand Rapids, MN. Inspired Cloquet High School students wanted to do more about suicide prevention within their school and larger community and partnered with REACH Mentoring to expand their efforts. Together, they created a youth leadership, peer mentoring program named “Students Offering Support (SOS).
The purpose of this program is to foster protective factors that will help youth succeed and thrive within our community, and mitigate factors that may contribute to suicides. SOS’s mission statement is, “A peer leadership team focused on addressing factors that may lead to suicide.” SOS’s vision statement is, “We are focused on building protective factors and developmental assets with youth to prevent suicides in Carlton County.” Protective factors include: access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking family and community support (connectedness); skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes; cultural beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation (U.S. Public Health Service 1999).
Having REACH’s peer mentors lead this program ensures the effectiveness of SOS Our peer mentors can easily engage other youth, and involvement through REACH’s SOS group gives our peer mentors a hands-on-understanding of how to accomplish positive change in our community. Transformations happen for all youth involved because they are challenged to find solutions to community issues. Weekly SOS meetings are focused on a variety of topics, i.e. how to become and promote “upstanders”—empathy building and dialogue via restorative justice practices. REACH’s SOS model provides a structured, in/non-formal group mentoring program that strengthens leadership development and nurtures goal-directed thinking to build social/emotional skills. Through the effective delivery of these interdependent components, high school students participating in REACH’s SOS programming will experience the following outcomes that contribute to improved achievement: (a) Improve social-emotional skills, (b) Increase positive engagement behaviors to build social capital, (c) Strengthen civic participation by, (d) Developing constructive relationships with both peers and adults in their schools and neighborhoods across Carlton County. The REACH’s SOS model builds youth leadership by cultivating peer group mentoring relationships focused on acting to address local needs, teaching social-emotional skills, building informal/non-formal learning strategies to bolster protective factors with Carlton County youth.
REACH’s SOS engages youth to create a supportive community, inspired by work being done by local leaders, and to develop and implement service-learning projects. SOS’s service-learning project idea is to expand SOS to rural communities within Carlton County. SOS training’s would include creating and maintaining “safe space” for dialogue, assisting Carlton County schools (students, teachers, school staff, youth workers, counselors, police, mental health specialists) in developing protocols and policies to prevent suicides in their communities. Also, training SOS members in QPR suicide prevention and restorative justice practices to reconcile relationships harmed through negative peer interactions. The goals of SOS are to raise awareness, create a support system of caring peers, and to gather Carlton County SOS groups to develop and sustain long-term protective factors.