Hope Squad looking to take off in West De Pere
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – Middle schoolers in the West De Pere school district are paving the way for a more open dialog about teen suicide.
About 30 West De Pere Middle School students have joined together to form the district’s first Hope Squad.
The national program, based in Utah, works to train school communities on warning signs of depression and the potential for suicidal ideation and how to prevent them.
Amy Schuh, director of student services, told the West De Pere school board Monday, Feb. 10, she hopes the program can spread to the high school.
“These students serve as the eyes and ears of the school,” Schuh said. “They often see the signs before we do, because they are interacting with each other on a daily basis.”
Students are nominated by their peers to serve on the squad and are taught the basics of QPR, which stands for question, persuade and refer.
Hope Squad members aren’t expected to provide counseling to their peers, but to be on the lookout for symptoms and notify school authorities if they believe someone may be struggling.
They learn how to ask questions, how to persuade someone not to hurt him or herself, and how to refer a peer who may be in danger to resources or adults who can help.
Schuh said donations from Casey Cuene of Broadway Automotive and Mike Cotter of Cotter Funeral Home helped the district pay for the training.
Cuene and Cotter have donated money to multiple area school districts, including the Unified School District of De Pere, to help get Hope Squads off the ground.
In other school board news:
Representatives from Miron Construction told the board they anticipate there will be substantial interest from companies in the area wishing to bid on the construction of the classroom addition and multi-use athletic space at the high school.
The district shared enrollment numbers over the last nine years. Enrollment in the district has gone from 2,926 students enrolled in 2011 to 3,847 students enrolled in 2020. In the years between, the progression is as follows:
• 2012 – 2,980 students.
• 2013 – 3,072 students.
• 2014 – 3,181 students.
• 2015 – 3,362 students.
• 2016 – 3,546 students.
• 2017 – 3,611 students.
• 2018 – 3,710 students.
• 2019 – 3,791 students.
The West De Pere High School Theatre Group will be presenting the play “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic” the last two weekends this month.
The off-Broadway comedy is a take on the Harry Potter series.
It’s set at Hufflepuff, one of the houses at Hogwarts, only it’s not about Harry Potter but rather Puffs, “who just happened to be there, too.” Its tagline is “A tale for anybody who has never been destined to save the world.”
Times are 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21; 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23; 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28; and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29.
Tickets are $5 for seniors and students, $7 regular admission and free for West De Pere High School students with student ID.