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Sierra High School
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Sources of Strength (SOS) at Sierra High School has received funding from Excellence in Education for the last 2 years. In the three years since it was started, students have taken on a variety of activities that promote student wellness. Following the initial SOS training, students met and brainstormed a long list of potential activities. Up to this point, students brought a group of students to the MakerSpace to learn about textiles and woodwork in a 5 week course. They also put together a tamale making gathering prior to the winter break to celebrate cultural pastimes. And also organized our annual Gratitude Gathering. Prior to the implementation of Distance Learning, students had planned an effort to involve fellow students in community service projects (as part of the generosity domain of wellness). We are currently in the process of how remaining funding ($164) could benefit students in this virtual setting. 

Sources of Strength is a TTUSD adopted comprehensive wellness training. Program designer’s characterize it as having, “a true preventative aim in building multiple sources of support around individuals so that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on” (CITE SOURCE). Sources of Strength’s mission and vision is aimed primarily at suicide, violence, and substance abuse prevention by building upon the many strengths underlying wellness. 

At the beginning of the 2017 school year, 8 Sierra High School (SHS) students attended a Sources of Strength training at the TTUSD Office. For the first time since SOS implementation, students at SHS decided to form a Sources of Strength group at SHS in order to promote ongoing wellness and build upon a positive school climate and culture. Each year since then, students have been SOS trained. 

Students meet about once a month during their lunch to discuss wellness related issues and concerns, and to organize monthly activities and/or educational opportunities that relate to and promote the SOS pillars of wellness: mental health, family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity, spiritual wellness, and medical access. SOS has become an integral part of our school community. Activities (which are held after school, and/or during 5th and 6th periods) bring students together and promote well-being and connectedness. SOS also collaborates with community partners, like the Truckee Library, to affect a broader understanding of mental health issues in the community. 


Benefits of Program

Over the course of the last few years Sierra High School has begun gathering more data on student wellness and mental health in order to assess current programs and better serve students. What we have found is that nearly half of our students feel that their mental health interferes with their ability to be successful in school. This is evident outside survey data as we see that more than half of students struggle with chronic absenteeism and many if not all students are credit deficient. In the 2018-19 school year, 34% of students cited feelings of anxiety and depression as the reason they did not come to school. Data also finds that 80-90% of students believe that wellness related enrichment (like SOS) is beneficial. Additionally, over 80% of students feel that there are accessible resources at SHS that can help with troubling thoughts, feelings and behaviors. 

Sierra High School prides itself on a safe and welcoming space for students who have a variety of learning needs and goals. Some of the goals outlined by Sources of Strength training include: overall adult-youth connectedness and bonding, youth help seeking from trusted adults, and coping skills and health promotion of youth based on protective factors. 

Benefits to students are directly related to the pillars of wellness (refer to description). Other benefits include increased positive feelings related to school safety and culture, and increased opportunities for bonding and connection to staff and peers. 

Each year we talk to students about how they feel SOS benefits them or their school community. This year, in addition to hearing from students, we also inquired with district leaders and parents to help develop the narrative. 

According to Braedon Schram, a 2 year SHS veteran, stated that, “With the sources of strength activities there is ALWAYS something new to be learned...One thing you can count on with these SOS activities is that you will never be alone in doing them. You will always have someone there working with you or someone supporting you. It is important to find strong roots in being confident in what you are doing and even more important to know where you can look for support for that confidence. These SOS programs are important in providing all of that.”

Hudson Johannsson, a new student to SHS this year feels that, “classes at the MakerSpace give students the opportunity to learn and gain experience about woodworking and other skills that will most likely help us in the future.”

Emily Ramos, an SOS trained student and participant points out that, “Sources of strength helps students to contribute to school activities, for example when we made tamales it was a good way to spend time with students and teachers. It also benefits us when we have meetings with the staff because they also help us with mental health and take the time to listen to our ideas as teenagers, listen to our thoughts”.

Kim Bradley, an SOS trainer and TTUSD Wellness Coordinator, states that, “through SOS we are able to create a supportive community where students help each other and develop deeper connections at school. Sierra High staff have done a wonderful job supporting SOS students develop activities to strengthen their school culture and community. They have the strongest SOS program in the school district!”

Shana Boyd, a parent, shares her perception of her son’s experience at MakerSpace. “The time my son spent at MakersSpace had such a positive impact on so many levels. He really looked forward to going (typically, my son looks forward to nothing school related) and just flat out had fun. I  think the "relaxed" time with teachers and fellow students provides a great environment to build relationships and trust. When he brought his finished projects home, we could see how proud he was and the feedback from others was a huge esteem boost for him. I feel like he really saw himself as successful and he was really excited by that”

Success of Program

Since the implementation of SOS in September of 2017, students have organized routine monthly activities for Sierra High School students (and even families of students) to participate in. Activities may vary year to year based on need and availability of resources, but this year have included: a school-wide gratitude gathering/potluck, tamale making, and MakerSpace. There were also plans to organize activities that gave back to the community prior to Distance Learning. 

In past years, activities have also included: pumpkin carving, school door art, individualized messages of encouragement to every student, baking and decorating, book club discussions followed by collage creations for Mental Health Awareness month at the Truckee Library, and a two day class at MakerSpace for students to learn, connect with community artists, and engage in creative expression. 

The structural nature of Sierra High School is such that students do not have a plethora of extra-curricular activities on site. Students are welcome and encouraged to join after school clubs, sports, enrichment, etc. at Truckee or North Tahoe High Schools, but this presents challenges for many students. Knowing that our structure is different and knowing the challenges our students face, SOS is a primary on-site option for students who are interested in bettering their school community, and who want to engage in leadership activities. 

SOS is one of many ways that, through student voice and advocacy, students support one another and build upon the welcoming and family-like climate that is Sierra High School. As one student describes it during the student update at the TTUSD Board Meeting “the SOS club is what we use to bring students together, like a family in school”. 

Participation varies from activity to activity. It ranges from whole school/community participation to smaller groups of 7-15 students. Turn out among students is routine. Activities are planned in such a way the barriers to attendance (like transportation) are resolved. Those who do not directly participate have an understanding of what is offered and know that is a part of a positive school climate, as it is announced at our school circle meetings that occur twice a week. 


Each year is a little different with regard to student leadership, interests and organization, which provides opportunities for us to learn and grow. We find that the strength of student leadership is key to more organized activities and increased student buy in. We are finding that nurturing student confidence and voice is something that has lead to more successful implementation.

At the start of the year, students undergo a Sources of Strength training at the district office. In this training, students gain a greater understanding of the pillars of wellness, what wellness means to them personally, how it looks school wide, and how to support one another. Following the training, student then meet once a month to continue organizing activities that will further the SOS mission and vision. 

Students meet monthly to voice their concerns for school and community issues, to organize activities that reflect the current wellness needs of the school, and to promote broader awareness within the community. 

The 2019-2020 budget is based off this year’s activities, projected projects, and collaborations. Grant monies will be used to support monthly activities and supplies (primarily consumables), to pay fees for a MakerSpace partnership (one to two classes dependant upon student interest), or whatever other activities are planned. 

SOS at Sierra High School is overseen by Alicia Lampley, school counselor, Cindy Maciel, STEPP program director and SOS trainer, and Kim Bradley, TTUSD Wellness Coordinator. Students do not have to be Sources of Strength trained in order to join or participate. Activities are open to all student at Sierra High School.

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

This grant is shared school wide. 

The TTUSD Wellness Program, coordinated by Kim Bradley has monies set aside to train students annually and to contribute to related activities for all three high schools. See budget for expected income. SOS also relies on community and staff donations for activities and coordination. Excellence in Education funding would help expand and support future wellness endeavors and initiatives.
Amount Funded
Other funding sources

See budget attachment 

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