by Angie Asam-Staff Writer
Students at Onaway High School celebrated P.S. I Love You Day last Thursday. The youth advisory council for the Cardinal Health Center located in the school took the project on after employees of the Cardinal Health Center shared the video created by Brooke DiPalmer, the founder of the day. DiPalmer created a video to spread awareness about suicide, depression and bullying after losing her father to suicide in 2010. Employees of the health center learned of the video at a state conference and shared it with their youth advisory council.
From there the kids took off, working to make P.S. I Love You Day come to Onaway. Students secured Tom Harrison as a speaker. Harrison lost his son Alex to suicide Feb. 7, 2009 and has since attended numerous schools speaking about bullying, depression and suicide as he learned about it from the death of his son.
The assembly opened with Emilee Madison welcoming everyone and telling them where the idea came about before showing the DiPalmer video to the school. Immediately following the video two students of Onaway High School shared their stories about dealing with depression. Logan Welker shared his own personal experience telling his schoolmates that “I survived”.
Madison then introduced Harrison. “I am a pharmacist, I don’t do this for a living. But I have kind of been thrown into it and feel I need to do this. My son took his life due to bullying he faced in and around his school. I want you all to help me make sure it never happens again,” said Harrison.
Harrison then asked students to fold their hands. He asked them to look at which thumb was on top and try to fold them the opposite way. He then asked them to give the person sitting to their left a hug. The purpose of the activities was to make them feel just a little bit awkward. “That is how someone going through a bullying situation feels most of the time,” said Harrison.
He then introduced his son Alex to the students, showing a video slideshow of pictures of his son. “That’s what I have left of my Alex, the pictures and the memories. Yeah, I am serious about what I am doing here today, and I want you guys on board with me. I loved that boy,” said Harrison.
“Alex’s shoes are empty because no one had the courage to say stop it. They heard something, they saw something, but they didn’t say stop that. That might have been all it would have taken,” said Harrison. Harrison has a simple message “See it. Hear it. Stop it” when it comes to bullying. His message was simple, to ask the students of Onaway High School to have the courage to stick up for someone who is being bullied when they see it or hear it.
“I’m not asking everyone in this room to be best friends with everyone in this room. That is not going to happen. I am just asking you to be a bit more friendly, that is all it takes sometimes,” said Harrison.
Harrison went on telling stories about the bullying his son endured at his school. He asked Onaway students to take the challenge of standing up to bullies and for those being bullied.
Following Harrison’s speech the committee gave out some treats to people who embraced the day, wearing purple and showing a lot of love. The committee then showed a video that they made in memory of P.S. I Love You Day, featuring Onaway students and the messages they wrote to share.
“In every school, in every town around the world there are kids who are hurting, so we wanted to bring it to our school to help it become a national holiday and to help any kids in our school who are hurting, to show them that they are loved and they matter,” said Madison about why the youth advisory committee embraced the project.
Katlyn Larson, another member of the committee who started the project, had this to share. “We are hoping that this is going to be a big deal. We’ve been working on this since the beginning of January. We have put a lot of time into it. I know people that feel depressed and could really use this and I think it will really lift up their spirits and get them going.”
The assembly came to an end with the youth advisory committee standing in front of the school displaying the message one more time “P.S. I Love You. Join the Fight” as they plan to continue with a blog and other ways to help fight bullying and depression within the Onaway High School building.