Students at Ladysmith Secondary School made a donation to the Vancouver Island Crisis Society the focal point of their Pink Shirt Day event Feb. 27.
Immersed in a sea of pink-clad classmates and teachers, Grade 12 LSS student Bobby Rice presented Elizabeth Newcombe, executive director of VICS, with a cheque for $225 to help fund the society’s GRASP program.
Newcombe said the school’s donation would fund “another workshop in suicide prevention in either this direct school or another school in School District 68.”
GRASP — an acronym derived from the program’s goal of facilitating Growth, Resiliency, Acknowledgment, Suicide awareness and Preparation and planning — is “a 12-hour gatekeeper program,” Newcombe said. The program is designed to help students identify at-risk peers and guide them to help.
GRASP workshops provide students with an opportunity to learn about themselves, to gain insight into their own biases and to explore means of building empathy and developing coping skills, Newcombe added.
“They’re challenged to discuss those things,” Newcombe said. “The program is structured but yet it’s very flexible to go where the students want the discussion to go. We obviously talk about suicide in that [suicide] is an option that’s not a healthy one. We want people to look at other options because [suicide’s] a pretty final option. We don’t want people to go there. Every life matters.”
GRASP provides training to youth from grades nine through 12 through workshops funded by the United Way, BC Gaming and public donations, Newcombe said.
Moira Dolen is an aboriginal support teacher at LSS. Dolen works with First Nations youth through the school’s Aboriginal Education program and helped organize the fundraiser, a student-run hot dog sale.
The fundraiser and Pink Shirt Day were intended to remind students that there are people in the community students can turn to when faced with a crisis, Dolen said.
Regarding the benefits provided to students who attend GRASP workshops, Dolen said they “become the ears and the eyes of the school. If they see someone in need or someone that wants a little extra help then they can be that referral. They’ll know what to say, who to refer [someone to] and what that process would look like.”
LSS Principal Dave Street said the school’s fundraiser was a “response to the recent support given to LSS by VICS.” For more information on GRASP, click here.