BELLBROOK — The creation of the Bellbrook High School Hope Squad was sparked by one goal: to spread positivity.
The student-led group has seemed to succeed in its mission.
But it all started in some not-so-happy times.
“We had been quarantined since March 13 and we were just checking in a lot with students. We were nervous about how they were doing at home,” Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools teacher Paige Lewis said.
That April, Zoya Bessler and Hailey Bridges, who were both in Lewis’s honors English class, told their teacher that they wanted to do something uplifting for others, and to just “be there for them.”
“It was around the time of the death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the pandemic, and the failing of the school levy,” Bessler explained. “A lot was affecting the community so we wanted to bring positivity back into the community.”
The then-sophomores co-founded the Hope Squad and Lewis became their advisor.
“It started with checking in on people’s mental health, and really evolved into doing as much as they can for the community around them,” Lewis said.
Since then, the Hope Squad — now with about 40 members in grades nine through 12 — has hosted a virtual 5K benefiting TCN Behavioral Health Services, run a food drive for the Family Resource Center in Bellbrook, and just this past Saturday got together to clean up downtown Bellbrook.
In September — Suicide Prevention Month — the group searched for a local organization that offered mental health services. The Hope Squad found TCN, a non-profit based in Xenia that serves Greene County adults and children with behavioral health care and substance use treatment.
Community members, teachers and students participated in the virtual 5K, covering more than 60 miles. Bessler and Bridges capped off the effort by presenting a $600 check to TCN’s chief operations officer earlier this month.
In these pandemic times, the Hope Squad has made sure to not only prioritize the mental health of their peers, but the physical health and safety, too. Lewis explained that the group plans each monthly event with an in-person option — making sure to sanitize and enforce mask-wearing and social distancing — as well as a virtual option.
But the club’s work is far from over.
“We have more stuff planned,” the girls said.
Right now, a cardboard tree, decorated with pink ribbons and hearts, stands in the school hallway for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Passersby have been signing the tree to represent each donation to the Pink Ribbon Girls of Dayton.
Next month, the group will put on a Thanksgiving food drive. In December, they hope to hand out “blessing bags” at St. Vincent de Paul of Dayton, a homeless shelter for women and families.
With several events already complete, the co-founders said they’re still excited about what’s next — because they believe what they’re doing remains as important now than ever.
“We’re trying to spread hope around the community,” Bridges said.
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