LAKELAND - “Without hope, you’ve got nothing.”
Everyone needs a little hope, said Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) board of trustees chair Arlene Hrynyk, which is why they're launching the It Starts with Hope Project.
In conjunction with Mental Health Week from May 3 to 9, NLPS will be kick starting their latest venture, a program aimed at spreading hope.
According to Hrynyk, part of the NLPS board of trustees' three-year plan is improving the overall mental health of their students.
“As one of our top priorities, this fits in so significantly with us trying to improve in that area and recognize that our students are higher than the national average when it comes to mental health concerns and wellness,” she continued.
The project includes three initiatives: Signs of Hope, Stories of Hope, and Messages of Hope.
Some of the projects would be better suited for in-person, Hrynyk expressed, such as collecting stories from seniors in the community. But, due to COVID-19, the school division has had to re-imagine this portion of the program.
NLPS is hoping their signs can bring a little hope into someone's day. This falls under the Signs of Hope portion, where parents and other community members are encouraged to place signs on their lawn to instill the feeling of hope.
“It’s so easy to go down a dark hole, and we want to be a part of lifting each other up and to keep them going forward in that positive, healthy journey," explained Hrynyk, adding the signs serve as a constant reminder.
“We want to see them out in all of our NLPS communities, to really emphasize the great things our kids are doing to contribute to their own wellness, but to also build stronger communities together.”
In addition to signage, NLPS is encouraging people to share their stories on the NLPS webpage.
“We just want it to become the norm. This needs to become the norm for our students. We want to help them be successful learners and we know that to be successful learners we need to deal with all components of their wellness for them to be able to achieve that educational success as well,” expressed Hrynyk.
As part of the division-wide project, students will be given postcards to send to others in hopes of spreading hope beyond NLPS communities.
Hrynyk said, “This is a fabulous opportunity to grow what we’re doing in our school communities into the larger communities."
The It Starts with Hope Project is being funded through a $40,000 grant Imperial Oil gave the school division.
“One of our top priorities for our three-year plan is the overall mental wellness of students. The dollars assisted us in developing this initiative and activities that we do, not just with kids to learn about hope, but to build hopeful communities,” Hrynyk said about the funding.
Hrynyk encourages families to keep their eyes and ears open for future initiatives through the program.