Project Summary

22% Funded

$1,100 Raised

of $5,000 Needed


Team: Panther Allies Will Support (P.A.W.S.)

Nederland, CO, United States

Team Coordinator: Jake Gerecht


Project Mentor:

Suzy Rippy

Partner Organizations


Education Sources of Strength Suicide Prevention


The Problem

According to the Boulder County 2011 Youth Risk Survey many middle and high school students in the Boulder Valley School District engage in behaviors that place them at significant risk.

In particular, results showed concerning mental health behavior regarding depression and planned suicide, as noted below:

Middle schools:

-Ever planned suicide, which was defined as having ever made a plan about how they would kill themselves: 8.1%

High schools:

-Depression, defined as feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more during the twelve months preceding the survey: 25%

- Planned suicide, defined as having planned a suicide attempt during the twelve months preceding the survey, 15.9%. This increased between 2009 and 2011; Boulder County rates were higher than both the state of Colorado and the U.S.

While our Prevention/Interventionist and counseling staff at NMSHS already provide services that directly address these mental health concerns, a missing piece in being able to fully address preventable suicide with adolescents is the fact that many youth, especially those that tend to be loners, confide in their peers rather than an adult.

Team P.A.W.S. is seeking to close that gap and establish connections by utilizing peer leaders to reach those students who don’t seek out support.

Our Solution

Our solution is to implement the Sources of Strength (SOS) program at NMSHS. SOS is a nationally recognized strength-based comprehensive wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention, but also impacts other issues like substance abuse and violence. SOS breaks down codes of silence and increases student’s abilities to ask for help from caring adults. The program is based on a relational connections model that uses teams of peer leaders mentored by adult advisors to change peer social norms about help seeking students to individually assess and develop strengths in their life.

Team P.A.W.S. is a group of students looking for ways to get NMSHS students more engaged in our school community. SOS would help us reach kids who don’t feel connected and don’t ask for help in times of crisis. Our plan is to begin the Sources of Strength this fall by starting with the Adult Advisor training and then a joint training with Adult Advisors and student Peer Leaders. Once training is completed, we will begin to implement various activities focused on delivering messages of “Hope, Help, and Strength” to our entire student community.

The Impact We Hope to Make

Sources Of Strength research has shown to positively impact school environments, peer group norms and individual factors that are protective against a range of problems including: suicide, bullying, substance abuse, mental health, violence, and more. SOS is the subject of the nation’s largest studies on peer leaders and their importance in suicide prevention. The results of this study have shown:
• Increase in Peer Leaders’ connectedness to adults
• Increase in Peer Leaders’ school engagement
• Peer Leaders in larger schools were four times more likely to refer a suicidal friend to an adult
• Among general student population the program increased positive perceptions of adult support for suicidal youth and the acceptability of seeking help
• Positive perception of adult support increased most in students with a history of suicidal ideation
• SOS is the first suicide program involving peer leaders to enhance protective factors associated with reducing suicide at the school population level

We will measure the impact of SOS at NMSHS by participating in the evaluation process used by SOS. The evaluation/analysis is conducted through the Lead Investigator for Sources of Strength and consists of pre and post surveys. The evaluation will measure Peer Leader engagement as well as the number of students that they refer to trusting adults for help.

There are 339 students who attend NMSHS—we hope to make a difference in all of their lives.

What We Need

Team P.A.W.S. is requesting funding to purchase the Sources of Strength Program, which includes training for adult advisors and student Peer Leaders, manuals, and web resources.