Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Suicide has become more frequent in recent years for local youth. Last year the six Johnson County school superintendents came together to try to find a way to address the issue.
Melissa McIntire, coordinator of student support services, April 1 presented to the USD 231 Board of Education the newly formed teen council for the #ZeroReasonsWhy Program and Campaign.
“We are trying to eliminate the stigma associated with suicide,” she said, “And we needed a student voice.”
T-shirts were made for free and handed out to high school students in Gardner-Edgerton High School.
“The most heartening thing was students I know who are at risk were immediately wearing shirts,” McIntire said. “I know it made an impact.”
The teen council for #ZeroReasonsWhy has nine student members from across Johnson County. Blake Burns and Taylor Fergola represent GEHS and were not in attendance at the board meeting.
The county-wide teen suicide prevention campaign seeks to find more mental health access for area students and empower a community to come together to stop the epidemic of suicide.
McIntire said there are three pillars for the campaign: Remove the Stigma, Build Community Support, and Commit to  Education. The campaign hopes to open dialogue within the community, have unconditional support from the community without judgment and have better mental health education earlier and more frequently.
“The tactics are early formal education, best practices and student-led programs,” she said. “The best way to implement this is by formalizing the student voice.”
McIntire said students would like to see more visible social workers, educators shadowing a day in a student’s life, more interactive programs, peer to peer support, community wide check-ins on each other, county-wide standardized practices, parent mental health groups across districts and implementing crisis responses.
All this week students will come together for the campaign through a focus group of 40 students to give feedback, filling out yellow duct tape for a banner with their zero reasons why and an ongoing student art project club centered around the campaign.
“It’s another opportunity for the students to have their voices heard,” McIntire said.
Pam Stranahan, USD 231 superintendent, said they were starting to try and put the focus more on parents and community to have a better and bigger group involved with the campaign.
“It’s time,” she said. “We are doing something and moving forward. It is a lot of work for a right cause.”
Three Wheatridge Middle School students with science teacher Greg Smith, also, presented to the board their pilot program on respect that they had begun in their class. He said he has seen a difference in his classroom.
“As a teacher it makes my job easier,” he said. “I am excited what Wheatridge is trying to do to make this part of the culture and trying to instill with benefits down the line.”
Students made a poster and came up with a respect contract. The contract consists of the teacher respecting students, students respecting the teacher, students respecting themselves and everyone respecting the school facilities and equipment.
Students said they are using their respect contract outside of the classroom in their everyday lives, too.
The final presentation was from GEHS Senior Thomas O’Conner presented his laser engraver training as part of his career and technical education in Mrs. Freeman’s support project management class. He personalized appreciation medals for board members.
“It is awesome that you were able to teach yourself and teach the class,” Greg Chapman, board member, said.
Board members approved the purchase of 1,100 Chromebooks to refresh the supply for Gardner-Edgerton 5th and 9th graders and incoming teachers for $224 per Chromebook at a total of $279,587.
New wireless access points for middle and high schools were approved for $23,561.66 and 19 uninterruptible power supply systems or battery backpacks that are Ethernet powered in land closets were approved for $19,790 to replace all the older ones that are 12-15 years old.