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Sources of Strength Peer Mentors Building Trust at Columbia High

Columbia High School junior Caleb Saylor and staff member Caitlin Cray demonstrated some of the activities used to train peer mentors in CHS’s Sources of Strength program to the White Salmon Valley School Board on Dec. 20. Saylor is one of 60 peer mentors in the program.

Photo by Ken Park
Columbia High School junior Caleb Saylor and staff member Caitlin Cray demonstrated some of the activities used to train peer mentors in CHS’s Sources of Strength program to the White Salmon Valley School Board on Dec. 20. Saylor is one of 60 peer mentors in the program.



Due to a flurry of after-school activities only one student was able to present and represent the peer mentors of the newly formed Sources of Strength program to the White Salmon Valley School Board (WSVSB) on Dec. 20.

The Sources of Strength program is a peer mentorship program with the goal of preventing teen suicide. Columbia High School adopted the program shortly before the end of the 2017-2018 school year and began mentor training sessions this fall.

About 60 students at CHS are peer mentors, one of whom is Caleb Saylor, a junior. Saylor, along with faculty member Caitlin Cray, demonstrated some of the activities peer mentors participated in as part of their training.

“We just finished working on our trusted adult campaign. During the campaign, we asked each other and our peers, ‘Who is an adult at the school you feel you can trust?’ The idea is that if there is at least one adult we can trust, that person can be someone our peers can trust as well,” said Saylor.

Saylor and Cray demonstrated this idea by inviting three board members to be “trusted adults” and hold on to sting pieces, while members of the audience held on to the other ends of the string, and other members held on to those people, thereby creating a network or connection to a trusted adult.

“The idea is to make sure all the students have an adult they can turn to and trust, which for some kids may be the only adult they can trust,” said Cray.

Caleb was motivated to join Sources of Strength by his friend group who told him that he gives good advice and is very empathetic.

“I figured getting some real training to back it up was a good idea,” said Saylor.

Some of the other activities, that are part of the training for the peer mentors, were creating the “Garland of Gratitude” that is strung around the CHS library. Each ring of the garland has a name and something in which that person is thankful for. Things such as family, friends, physical and mental health were among the most common thoughts of gratitude.

Many of the students in Sources of Strength traveled to Washougal on Dec. 21 where they participated in youth advocacy training. This training will eventually lead them to Olympia, where they will be able to lobby the legislature for more and better resources for the schools to handle teen depression and suicide prevention.

The program was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from the White Salmon Valley Education Foundation. The grant will go into what Cray calls the “behind the scenes” work of the program, such as research into how impactful it has been.

Following this presentation, the school board elected Alan Reitz and Dave Karlson as chair and vice-chair. Members also confirmed Laurie Stanton’s second year as the board’s legislative representative.

Stanton and Superintendent Jerry Lewis recently went to Olympia to talk to representatives about how rural school districts have been impacted by the McCleary decision. They asked representatives what they are going to do to help these districts that have been negatively impacted.

“Lots of good listeners there, but now we are waiting for them to tell us what they’re going to do,” said Stanton.



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