Suicide is not an easy topic. It's not a light subject to handle. It's certainly not an issue many young people think about fighting for. But one Spring-Ford student has decided to become a friend to anyone and everyone in her district who needs it.
"After discussing with my parents a recent suicide in our school, I wanted to do something to help students," said Alicia Cummings. "I started Spring-Ford S.O.S. on Facebook for the student who needs information and support. It is hard approaching counselors in school so I want students to have another option."
Cummings said she wants people to know her as someone they can trust. She said her peers can talk to her about anything.
"I shared my Facebook page with friends and students," she continued. "I encourage everyone I know to take a look and share."
For Cummings, the big-picture goal is simple: for people to be more aware of suicide and what steps to take to prevent it. She would also like to raise awareness of suicide prevention at school.
"I think Spring-Ford does a great job with counseling students after a suicide has happened, but I would love to see more programs for prevention in place," she said."
District officials may not be aware of what Cummings is doing. Superintendent David Goodin was both surprised and interested in Cummings' efforts.
"I applaud her being willing to step out and take initiative to try and reach out and help her peers," said Goodin. "That's certainly commendable. I'm hoping that along with that responsibility, she also understands if something is in crisis, she would recognize where the resources are, how to get somebody in touch with available resources."
Goodin said he's never seen a student do something like this in his career.
"Remember, my career is further than the life of social media," he said. "Social media has made this possible. So, she's able to reach out and have contact with her peers in a way that 10 years ago, maybe five years ago, you couldn't do."
In the future, Cummings has ideas of holding an after-school program; one being an assembly that would discuss warning signs, ways to help, ways to cope, etc. However, the district may not be open to a student-run organization like this.
"If she's going to step out there and do it, she's doing it as her own initiative," Goodin explained. "The district, because of our liability and the fact that we already have processes in place, like the Student Assistance Program [SAP] for drug and alcohol issues or students who are at risk in crisis. I don't think the district can advocate students helping students in crisis. So, this is her own initiative."
Goodin said the district is working on a solution to recognize that students communicate electronically with a new technology on Spring-Ford.net called Friend Watch. If a student is concerned about a fellow peer, they can make a SAP referral electronically.
Regardless, Cummings is happy people are becoming aware of this serious cause.
"It makes me feel good," she said. "I feel that those people who have Liked it might be able to help others or even themselves. I would love to see that number grow; the more people that know, the more help we can offer students.
"I do not want to lose another student to suicide. I am driven to keep people living and living their lives to the fullest. I know I cannot save everybody but if i can reach out to that one student, I know I can make a difference. I would like students to come together to help one another. We should be able to identify the warning signs and help each other."
Cummings said there was even a woman who offered rides to Paoli Hospital to attend a Survivors of Suicide meeting for any student interested. Cummings said she hopes to have the community involved in every student's life.
"I would like to do a 'live' version of '100 Reasons,' a video posted on my page," Cummings said. "It's simple to do; just write down your one reason to keep living another day, on a piece of paper or poster board, and show up with it. This invitation will be extended to all students, friends, family, and the entire school district. My hope is that the whole community will come together and share their support to raise awareness."