By: Laura Amos
Students in the J.P. Taravella High School DECA club are focusing on crisis prevention with the launch of their latest project, Here 2 Help. This project aims to promote Crisis Text Line, a national non-profit organization that provides free mental health support from trained crisis counselors.
The DECA club wants to increase awareness of this important service throughout J.P. Taravella (JPT) and other middle and high schools in Broward County. Student Jodianne Smith, JPT DECA Here2Help Volunteer Outreach Chair, said, “There is currently no resource like this anywhere in Broward County: a 24/7 text line staffed by trained crisis counselors.”
Each year, JPT DECA members work on a major project that enables them to make an impact in their community. Smith said, “When our advisor, Mrs. Acosta, was visiting family in New Jersey this past summer, her cousin, who is currently a Crisis Text Line volunteer, told her about this program.” Acosta’s cousin has an aunt, 78-year-old Nancy Denburg, who is one of the organization’s most effective volunteers. When Acosta returned home, she shared this information with the DECA leadership team.
Smith said, “We were really saddened by the recent suicides at nearby high schools, and in fact, JPT DECA lost one of our own members a few years ago to suicide.” This personal connection led the members to enthusiastically decide to promote Crisis Text Line.
By texting “Hello” to 741741 (the Crisis Text Line number), trained volunteers can take a person in crisis from a “hot” moment to a “cool” moment and create a plan to help texters by referring them to local resources. The organization was founded in 2013, and since then, it has responded to over 20 million messages.
To promote the Crisis Text Line at JPT, DECA students have organized a school-wide assembly on November 9, and they are sponsoring the installation of permanent signs throughout the school to remind students that they can use the service whenever they need it. JPT DECA is also working with the Broward County School Board to explore the possibility of promoting Crisis Text Line to all middle and high schools in Broward.
As DECA’s Here 2 Help project generates awareness of Crisis Text Line, the non-profit organization will need more volunteers to become trained counselors who can interact with those in need. Crisis Text Line currently has a community of over 1,500 volunteer crisis counselors. The organization has plans to grow to more than 4,000 crisis counselors in the next two years, and JPT DECA is working to contribute to this goal. The Here 2 Help project includes reaching out to various organizations in Coral Springs and throughout Broward County, including mental health organizations, retired teachers and veterans, and local fire departments.
“The more people know about Crisis Text Line, the more texters they’ll get, and the more volunteers they will need,” said Smith. “Among those who make the best volunteers are retirees who have patience, empathy, and a desire to help others. They do NOT need to be tech experts; they just need to know how to use a computer. If they’re reading your blog, they can do it!”
The volunteer process includes filling out an application, which takes about 30 minutes; consenting to a background check; and completing a 34-hour online training session. Volunteers commit to help out for four hours a week for one year. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or if you want more information about the volunteer process, visit the Crisis Text Line website or the page to sign up as a volunteer. Smith noted that the online volunteer application asks who referred the applicant. She said, “Please ask your readers to list JP Taravella DECA as the referring organization.”
JP Taravella is located in Coral Springs and is a Broward County Public School.