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Inoculating Kids for Life in Castle Rock »
With a significant teen suicide rate in Castle Rock, Ambassadors of Compassion, a non-profit, non-denominational group based in California, is working to instill values in Castle Rock students that will inoculate them from hopelessness and inspire healthy thinking. With the goal of building resilient youth and compassionate leaders, the group teaches leadership, character and responsibility in a transformative way according to their website.
As a part of this community, Castle Rock Adventist Hospital “is very aware that mental health is a huge problem in Douglas County, particularly when it comes to teen suicide,” comments Godfrey Miranda, pastor of the Castle Rock church plant which meets in an unused hospital space. For this reason, the hospital sponsored the program by donating funds to the school.
Miranda, along with David Martinez, Castle Rock Adventist Hospital chaplain, are Ambassadors of Compassion at Castle Rock Middle School where the entire student body comes together each Wednesday morning to hear parents, community members, police officers and hospital personnel discuss four values from the RISE curriculum.
The four values encompassed in RISE – responsibility, initiative, service, and expectations (or goal setting) – when internalized in the life of a young person, can transform their outlook and, indeed their lives.
Meetings with the middle school students find Miranda and Martinez leading icebreaker activities, directing student journaling, sharing inspirational quotes and piloting small-group discussions and activities, all designed to build trust along with the realization in the students that they have the ability to contribute to their society. It provides fertile ground for positive values to take root.
“It was neat to see,” during the 13-week course, “that trust was built and that kids who were closed off and aimless realized something about their potential,” enthused Miranda. “They recognize that they can actually choose things that will help them reach that potential.”
Martinez shared the story of a student he called “Nate” who was “very quiet and very aloof. He was indifferent about life, but seemed to brighten up during the two months he and Miranda were there as he recognized there was safety there and that the other students wouldn’t give him a hard time. He shared his experience with an abusive, alcoholic father and a mom that had just booted him out of the house. “This kid had a great voice and the kids respected him,” Martinez shared. He began to realize that he could make a contribution to his family and to his school environment.
By the end of the program, this very bright kid had figured out for himself that he was okay and that he was going to be okay.
“There are kids who don’t really esteem their contribution to life very much, but to see that actually turn on . . . “ Miranda began, his thoughts trailing off as he remembered the impact they had on this kid.