No Eagle Left Behind
As we walked into the gym at Godwin High School on March 24th, our Minding Your Mind (MYM) speaker, Melissa Hopely, and I were stunned by the enthusiasm of the over 1,800 students and faculty. Since incorporating MYM into our SpeakUp programming, we have welcomed speakers to fourteen area high schools, but never felt anything quite like the energy emanating out of Godwin that day.
We were invited to participate in the program by No Eagle Left Behind, a student-run organization at Godwin (the eagle is Godwin’s mascot). This group formed last fall to ensure that their school is a place of acceptance and inclusion. Each student member represents a specific organization: Beacon Tree, Christopher’s Angels, Dude Be Nice, and the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation. No Eagle Left Behind members, Lauren Lemelin and Kaitlyn Ledford, knew Cameron, and have supported CKG from its inception. They both have their own stories of struggle, and were instrumental in bringing a MYM speaker and our SpeakUp workshops to Godwin.
Along with creating a video detailing the No Eagle Left Behind program, this group also planned a week of awareness and education focusing on these organizations and their causes. Each day during the lunch period that week, tables of information were set up to highlight the four organizations. The week culminated on Friday with our MYM speaker, Melissa, addressing the student body.
Melissa shared her experience of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. At her lowest point, her then 16-year-old friend, Katie, recognized something was seriously off, and encouraged her to seek help. Melissa related her story about trying to fit in, being bullied, and how she ended up bullying others. Most importantly, she talked about finding the courage to “SpeakUp,” seeking help, learning positive coping skills, and understanding that she was never alone. At the end of her presentation, the gym erupted in applause, cheers, and a standing ovation! The overwhelming response spurred one student, Charles, a No Eagle Left Behind member, to stand up before this huge crowd of his peers, and, for the first time ever, “SpeakUp” about his struggle with depression. Afterward, I asked Charles if he had planned on sharing his story that day. He responded, “No, I just felt like I needed to do it.”
That morning at Godwin was amazing!! Students lined up thanking Melissa for sharing her story, and they, in turn, shared a few of their own struggles with her. Pictures were taken, hugs were given, and a few tears were shed. These students now realize that they are not alone, they are worth it all, and they are committed to have No Eagle Left Behind!