The 33rd Fighter Wing honored Senior Master Sargeant Sara Weber for her efforts to reduce suicide amongst airmen at a ceremony that took place last week.
Weber leads the first-ever Hope Squad unit for active duty military. The Hope Squad is a suicide-prevention program that began in Utah, but has since come to the Okaloosa County School District.
Dr. Diane Kelley, an Okaloosa County School Board Member who serves in a consulting role with the Hope Squad organization was present at the ceremony and said she was “so proud” of the work Weber has done to reduce suicide in the military.
The Hope Squad was founded in the city of Provo, Utah by a high school principal, Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall, whose school experienced multiple child suicides. Emboldened by a promise he made himself to reduce youth suicide, he began the Hope Squad at Provo City Schools. By working with everyone from the city council to the Girl Scouts, Hudnall’s mission to save lives worked. Nine years after the program started, not one suicide took place.
There are Hope Squads in more than 1,600 schools in 41 states.
The Hope Squad says its mission is to reduce youth suicide through education, training and peer intervention. The Organization hopes to have a Hope Squad in every school in America.
The Squads teach students to recognize the warning signs of suicide and suicidal behavior in classmantes, how to reach out to peers in distress and refer them to trusted adults.
Experts teach the squad members to recognize bullying, intervene and work to get other students to treat one another with respect. They are also taught how to promote resilience and self-care among the student body members at their schools.
Okaloosa County High Schools, including Niceville High School all have Hope Squads active in their facilities. According to a Mid Bay News story from April 2022 – Superintendent Marcus Chambers said that a Hope Squad will be in every school by the end of the 2023 school year.