timberland benton Dell Rapids Group Connects The Community
“We felt like there were needs that needed to be met in the community, with our kids, our parents, our staff,” Dell Rapids Superintendent Summer Schultz said. “And yet we weren’t quite sure how to start meeting those.”
Those needs include suicide awareness and prevention. The district lost a number of people to suicide in the last 10 years. Administrators responded with Connections, a group that brings community members together to talk about tough issues.
The group ties together all aspects of the community. Pastor Melissa Fletcher works side by side with the school district to bring a different view to the table.
“Being that liaison between our ministerial association and the Connections group, it gives us the opportunity to learn some of the different topics that they’re bringing to the community and then how we as clergy in our community can work with the schools, with the other parents, just to bring those topics into our churches as well,” Fletcher said.
Even though the group is made up of adults, students aren’t left out.
“We do take some input from students. Visiting with some of my student council members or national honor society members, some of the leaders in the school to help identify, what are some of the things going on or what do you need more information about,” school counselor Jennifer Ruesink said.
Connections works toward bridging the gap between the students and parents to create a healthy dialogue about important topics.
“For some of our events like social media awareness, some of the distracted driving events we’ve done some of the mental health awareness, a lot of it is student driven,” Ruesink said.
As the events go on and get bigger, so does the group.
“Some of the events for parents, they’re not something you’re necessarily going to hear. We don’t know some of the social apps that are out there and social media apps that our kids are doing. So once they come to one and see there’s a lot of value in this, each event we’ve gotten more and more parents,” Schultz said.
Last month, Connections brought in two speakers who both had a child die by suicide.
They shared their personal stories to help other parents learn about the signs of mental health issues.
“The more people that go to these events and are more educated, the minute they can recognize a red flag, they’re able to act on it and they’re able to get them help. A lot of the people don’t know those red flags,” group member Brittani Bullock said.
Bullock was in charge of creating a 5K run for the cause and has been participating in any way that she can.
“We talked about what it did and what it covered and there was not a doubt in my mind, there no hesitation at all that this is a group that I wanted to support and since then we have given 100% of our proceeds from the run to the group,” Bullock said.
Now that Connections has more funding and has hosted a number of large events, the group is looking for what’s next.
“That’s why we’ve been asking our community, what do you want to see. I think unfortunately we don’t know what the future is with these kids,” Schultz said.
“We do currently have a needs assessment out to our students and staff and community saying what do you think is important and what would you like us, as a group, to bring to Dell Rapids,” Ruesink said.
The group meets once a month and opens up the dialogue to create a better, safer, community for years to come.
“The more that Connections is out there, we’ve seen that there’s more awareness. There’s awareness among peers and that’s so critical because often students and kids are reaching out, they’re saying something,” said Schultz.