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” (Sources of Strength Description). 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 2017-2018 school year, ten Sierra High School (SHS) students attended a Sources of Strength training at the TTUSD Office. For the first time since SOS implementation, students 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.
Students meet 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.
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. Sierra High School is able to support such goals by providing an environment that is conducive to fostering connections and help seeking. The SOS group on campus works hard to promote protective factors related to wellness and increase such opportunities for connection.
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.
Johanna Nevarez, an SOS member states that it is beneficial because “Students help other students get involved in activities here on campus and also because it is students helping support one another through different types of wellness activities”. Heidi Valdez, also an SOS member, states that “SOS teaches us how to be leaders and role models for students and how we can help one another”. Natali Morales, who is not a member but participates in activities, believes that “It gives us a break from the stress of school and home. It is a positive distraction”. Giselle Escobar, a Sophomore Sierra High School, states that “SOS provides activities for us. The activities bring more high school experiences and memories to our school that help us feel like other high schools”. Lisette Sanchez who has participated in several activities feels that SOS “Helps us to feel more like a family than a school”.
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 Thanksgiving potluck and gratitude practice, pumpkin carving, school door art, art projects and lessons from Mr. Wohlman, 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, the staff creates a safe and unique school culture in which students have access to different types of activities that promote wellness and enrichment. 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.
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 2018-2019 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), continued collaboration with Truckee Library, and money for novels that will support student interests and/or library projects for Mental Health Awareness.
SOS at Sierra High School is overseen by the 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.
All staff members are included and updated about projects and opportunities at our weekly staff meeting. Many, if not all, staff have participated routinely.
TTUSD Wellness Program. See budget and sustainability of grant language.