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Three Lee’s Summit high schools join teen mental health campaign You Be You

These T-shirts were among the materials provided to students during the first year of the You Be You campaign.
These T-shirts were among the materials provided to students during the first year of the You Be You campaign. Submitted photo

Lee’s Summit is represented in a list of schools joining You Be You, the teen mental health campaign of Jewish Family Services that’s entering its second year.

The new participants include three R-7 high schools: Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit West and Lee’s Summit North. Also joining are Olathe North, Olathe Northwest, Olathe South, Olathe West, Olathe East, Pioneer Trail Middle School, Shawnee Mission South, Shawnee Mission Northwest, Turner High School and Oxford Middle School.

You Be You is a school-based, student-led initiative for sharing positive messages of self-worth and value. It was developed by Jewish Family Services in partnership with the advertising firm Bernstein-Rein, emphasizing mental wellness.

Students used a variety of materials developed by Bernstein-Rein and created additional tools to reach their peers with messages telling them that they didn’t need to be perfect, but should just be themselves.

The advertising agency donated services to the project. The Speak Up Foundation, founded by three local families whose children died by suicide, is the strategic funder of the You Be You campaign and is focusing this year’s funding on the new schools. Jewish Family Services has brought in other funders to maintain the program in the 10 pilot schools that launched the program a year ago.

Those are Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Johnson County, University Academy in Kansas City and several Blue Springs district schools: Blue Springs and Blue Springs South high schools, Valley View High School, Freshman Center High School, Paul Kinder Middle School, Moreland Ridge Middle School, Delta Woods Middle School and Brittany Hill Middle School.

“It became so popular and people saw the need for it, so additional schools came to us wanting to implement the program,” said Sarah Link Ferguson, mental health coalition coordinator who oversees the You Be You campaign.

The effort will continue to use posters, stickers, installations and T-shirts to spread the message, in addition to some new elements, Ferguson said. Keeping connected with the students is also part of the plan.

“This year we are implementing a comprehensive social media plan that includes students from different schools being able to communicate with each other, share ideas, photos and videos,” Ferguson said.

Another potential growth area is offering educational activities helping teens and parents to communicate more openly and comfortably about mental health issues.

Student attends national health conference

Addison Ditamore, a sixth-grader at Sunset Valley Elementary School, was one of two Missouri representatives at a national conference this summer for the largest in-school health and wellness program in the United States.

Allison-Ditamore
Addison Ditamore Submitted photo

Fuel Up to Play 60 — created by the National Dairy Council, the National Football League and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — aims to empower students and adult supporters to increase daily opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity in school. Lee’s Summit students have represented Missouri for the past three years.

Karen Reynolds, a physical education teacher at Sunset Valley, joined Addison at the gathering, held July 16-19 in Atlanta. More than 100 students and program leaders represented 47 states.

Student leaders shared ideas with one another, received leadership and communication training, and created plans to make their schools healthier. They also listened to 12 speakers from six NFL teams, toured the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, participated in obstacle courses and played NFL flag football.

Compiled by Elaine Adams, Special to the Journal

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