District Receives Donation for Hope Squad from AB Korkor Foundation

District Receives Donation for Hope Squad from AB Korkor Foundation
Posted on 09/14/2020
This is the image for the news article titled District Receives Donation for Hope Squad from AB Korkor Foundation

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District received a $9,000 donation from AB Korkor Foundation to help support the implementation of Hope Squads in each secondary school.

The mission of the AB Korkor Foundation to raise awareness, remove stigma and enforce the role of physical wellness in mental health. The foundation established by Dr. Adel B. Korkor, M.D. is committed to addressing issues surrounding mental health and the painful, pervasive struggle of patients with mental illness from stigma, limited access to care and inadequate insurance coverage.

Hope Squads

The Hope Squad program began in Provo City School District, the tenth largest school district in Utah, is home to Brigham Young University and considered one of the most family-oriented communities in the West.  For many years, youth suicide was a silent tragedy. Provo was averaging one to two youth suicides a year for over twelve years, including the death of a fourth-grader who took his life on the school campus.

Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall, a high school principal, had dealt with the loss of students to suicide during his tenure. Then in 1997, Dr. Hudnall was contacted by the Provo Police to identify a student who had taken his life in the park next to his school. After working with the police, he returned to his car, threw up, and sobbed over the loss of the student.  While sitting in his car and trying to recover from the experience, he made a vow that he would do everything he could to prevent another child from taking their life. 

The next year, Dr. Hudnall was promoted to the Provo City School District office, which totaled 16,000 students in a community of 120,000 residents. A couple of years later, a community task force was created, bringing together the mayor, city council, mental health agencies, school districts and universities, faith-based organizations, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, business leaders, law enforcement, and concerned parents. The task force spent five years creating a volunteer mobile crisis team and educating thousands of residents in suicide prevention. Their mantra became, “While it takes an entire village to raise a child, we believe it takes an entire community to save one!”

The thought was that if successful suicide prevention could happen in Provo, it could be successful anywhere. 

Team leaders visited high schools and talked with students in every English class.  They asked students to name three peers who were kind, easy to talk to, and didn’t bully. After collecting thousands of surveys, the most remarkable thing happened: the same forty names rose to the top!  These students became the first Hope Squad members, trained to identify suicide warning signs in their peers and refer those peers to adults.  

Today, there are Hope Squads in over 800 schools across 25 states and Canada. Their mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma and serve as a resource to those touched by suicide. 

“In West Allis-West Milwaukee we have Hope Squads at each of our secondary schools.  Students are trained to be a resource for their peers. We also organize Hope Week activities and maintain a positive presence in school.  We are a community that cares -- we don’t want any student to feel they are alone when times are rough,” said Director of Leadership and Learning, Deidre Roemer.