SkillsUSA SkillsUSA Champions Summer 2009 : Page 14

“This is a tough topic to get high school students ... to embrace. At first it was a little scary, but then they researched it. They learned about it. They shared it with their peers. Now it’s not so scary to talk about.” — Toni Terpolilli, SkillsUSA advisor More than 400 people participated. (Corzine is pictured above in the gray sweater.) Besides the walk, now an annual event, SkillsUSA members held a schoolwide assembly. ACTing Out, the school’s dance troupe, gave several performances. Speakers were also invited to discuss both the warning signs and the emotional impact suicide has on families and friends. The students learned how to talk to their peers about depression and suicide. They heard how important it is to approach a friend in crisis, regardless of how uncom-fortable it may be. “I think a lot of times, people are afraid to ask for help,” Yang says. “I think it’s good to get help. You should never give up and resort to suicide. Once you’re gone, everyone’s affected. Your whole family will miss you. Your friends will miss you.” Yang adds that she thinks it’s a sign of strength to get help, “because it shows you have the courage to go out there and find a way to solve your problems.” Laird-Kern agrees: “I think you should try to help someone even though it’s not easy. If the person won’t talk about it, you should definitely go tell someone else, a parent or a teacher, that the person is troubled.” to know where to go to get help. There is a stigma attached with this, and that’s what the kids are afraid of. They need to learn there are others who may feel the same way. “This is such a touchy area,” she adds. “Schools can be a little reluctant to address this. We asked our principal, and she said, ‘You have to talk about this, because it’s a problem.’ From top to bottom, our school, they support it.” Terpolilli’s sister-in-law attended the assembly and was so impressed, she encouraged the chapter to take the show on the road. “We’ve actually had two other places book the assembly,” the advisor says. DVDs of the program are also available. “We as adults sometimes minimize the problems that these kids are having,” Terpolilli explains. “To us, their issues are small, but to them, they are huge. And we need to realize that and not just say, ‘Oh, it will be OK.’ “For the first year after my nephew passed away, I just couldn’t get a grasp of it. But then I talked to one of our school-based youth counselors, and we realized that we had to do something.” Her students created brochures of the warning signs to share with classmates. “This is a tough topic to get high-school students at such a young age, from 14 to 17, to embrace,” Terpolilli says. “At first it was a little scary, but then they researched it. They learned about it. They shared it with their peers. Now it’s not so scary to talk about.” To prove that point, Sabolcik adds, “If someone were on the edge, I would tell them that like everything in life, there are all different sides. There are bad sides, but there are also good. There are ways to find that good side. There are people out there who can help you with your problems.” ‘There are people who can help’ Toni Terpolilli, the students’ SkillsUSA advisor, is the instructor who lost her nephew to suicide. “In our area, there’s definitely a problem,” Terpolilli explains, “so that’s how we began the whole thing. We have to tell kids that it’s not the end. There are people who can help, and I wanted them • (To learn more about GCIT’s program or how to start your own suicide awareness program, e-mail Toni Terpolilli: TTerpolilli@gcit.org.)

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