WARSAW — In the world, there is one death by suicide every 40 seconds. Student Skylar Ashcraft lost her sister to suicide a couple of years ago.
“We’ve had a lot of suicide attempts at our school in the past couple months,” Ashcraft said.
Veronica Helser, an English honors teacher, created the school project Game Changers. It focuses on students picking a topic that bothers them in society, and then developing an idea to solve the problem.
“I am a strong believer in humanitarian work and really helping the community,” Helser said. “We talk quite extensively to students about them being game changers in society.”
Ashcraft and three other students, Morgan Nichols, Cora Ransbottom and Abby Taylor, decided to focus on suicide and suicide prevention, naming their idea You Matter.
To help their idea make a greater impact, the students thought of bringing in a celebrity to endorse their class project. They reached out to Ben Higgins, a Warsaw native famous for his time on the ABC reality television show ‘The Bachelor.’
“At first, I honestly didn’t know if he’d respond because I know he has a busy schedule,” Hessler said. “But I told the students to try.”
The students contacted Higgins via e-mail, and he agreed to help them with their project.
“The idea really interested me,” Higgins said. “It’s very humbling in a sense to have somebody reach out to me and share something that they thought I could help with.”
The four students presented their idea to more than 600 people in the Edgewood Middle School gymnasium. Project presentations are similar to the show “Shark Tank”, as they’re presented in front of an “investor” panel that listens to the idea and gives feedback.
The presentation started with Ashcraft talking about the loss of her sister to suicide. The students discussed the idea of hosting a school program that would include the signs of suicide, suicide prevention and coping mechanisms. They then presented their idea of hosting a 5k run and walk at Winona Lake Park in June. The entry fee would be $5, and they created bracelet and T-shirt ideas as well. All proceeds would benefit a suicide prevention program.
Higgins then presented his thoughts, starting by discussing the worst break-up of his life. That break-up happened at Edgewood Middle School.
“I thought life existed only with her in it,” Higgins said. “And on Valentine’s Day, I told this girl for the first time that I loved her.”
But she broke up with him that day.
“I know that this story is absurd and funny,” Higgins said. “But at some level, it’s very relatable to a lot of people in this room. Even though in that moment, I thought everything was going wrong, today I’m doing fine.”
He then discussed his thoughts on suicide prevention, mentioning that he’s met with a counselor regularly since 2014.
“We have to break down the taboos and the walls that say you can’t talk about this stuff,” Higgins said. “When you have moments of difficulty, there are people around you to help you through those moments. We need to build a community of people that support one another.”
After his speech, the five “investors” were asked to either approve or decline the idea. All five answered yes, saying that it’s perfect for the area and that they hope it’s implemented.
“We hope that this brings more awareness to the problem, not just in our community but everywhere,” student Morgan Nichols said.
This class project is sponsored by Sym Financial.