Central York Middle aevidum project will be used as statewide model

Cut-out hands, representing each of about 1,000 students in the school, are displayed on the windows in the cafeteria at Central York Middle School in Springettsbury Township, Thursday, March 8, 2018. Aevidum Club supports suicide awareness, positivity and mental health awareness. Aevidum Club Advisor and science teacher Brian Heisey says that the project sends the message that, "everyone's got their back, everyone's represented and everyone means something," he added, "Everyone has worth." Dawn J. Sagert photo

Students in Central York Middle School's Aevidum club found that the best way to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health is to focus on the positives.

The club this past year launched its "rockstar postcard" project, which recognizes students not just academically but for the good things they do throughout the school day.

Aevidum — meaning "I've got your back" — began in Lancaster County in 2003 to promote inclusivity and suicide prevention, and it now has clubs nationwide.

More: York County fights back against suicide with youth advocates

More:At Central York Middle School, a message of acceptance and worth to all

Central's middle school project exemplifies those themes by sowing positivity throughout the student body — and will be used by the statewide aevidum program at conferences as a model for other students.

"If a teacher recognizes a student doing something positive, like helping a classmate in need, doing well on an assignment or anything good, they can write their name on this card," said eighth grade club member Blaze Fogle.

Blaze said it's the club's most successful project to date, and middle school Principal Kelly Harper confirmed the postcards are a huge hit with students and families.

Administrators meet one-on-one with students who receive the cards, and Harper said she'll often try to get them to guess which teacher wrote about them.

Then she mails them home, and many students like to surprise their parents with them.

"A lot of times these are kids who don’t normally get that recognition," Harper said. "It might be a kid who’s quietly doing something good in our building."

With mental health issues and suicide risk on the rise among teens, programs such as aevidum have become an important part of prevention, officials said.

More:Local officials fret uptick in teen suicide, bullying

"Instead of focusing on the stigmas that can sometimes be associated with mental health, we talk about and discuss positive strategies that we can apply to help ourselves and others," said eighth grade club member Karmyn Vaughn.

York County Coroner Pam Gay worked with Cindy Richard, founder of the York County Suicide Prevention Coalition, to help get programs such as aevidum into local schools in 2014.

They received a $10,000 grant from the York County Community Foundation.