Under Every Helmet and Hat is a Child Who Needs Us!

It’s all about creating healthy schools.

At least that was the message conveyed to students and teachers who gathered at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe Thursday as the Bo Tkach Foundation and Aevidum kicked off a mental health awareness campaign.

Aevidum comes from the Latin word “vid,” which means “life,” and is interpreted to mean “I’ve got your back!” It empowers students to take responsibility to make a difference.

Schools from Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties, along with a school from Philadelphia, participated in the event.

Grant Schneebeli, a 10th-grade student at Nazareth High School, said the purpose of the program is to change the lives of those who struggle with issues such as self-harm, depression, anxiety and suicide.

“We can hopefully prevent that and make them feel they’re wanted; that we’ve got their back,” Schneebeli said.

Lucas Christman, a freshman at Palmerton High School, also shared his thoughts.

“Aevidum is a really great organization for the students,” Christman said. “It’s about appreciating kids that might not be as appreciated, just helping and caring for others.”

Mary Pritchard, a school psychologist and Aevidum adviser, said the program was a multi-district consortium to give students the tools they need to go back to their districts and share.

“It’s about creating a culture in the schools where everyone feels accepted, appreciated, acknowledged, and cared for,” Pritchard said.

Lexie Dudeck, a senior at Nazareth High School, knows this all too well.

Originally from New Jersey, Dudeck grew up with parents who struggled with substance abuse.

After being taken away from her parents and placed in foster care, Dudeck was eventually taken in by a family member.

She’s thankful for the program.

“Aevidum is not just an organization, it is a savior,” Dudeck said. “This group just brings out the best in everyone.”

Carbon County Commissioners William O’Gurek and Thomas J. Gerhard praised those in attendance for their participation in the program.

O’Gurek told the students and teachers that it’s important that they take the message from here back to their respective districts so that we have healthier schools and healthier students.

Gerhard said that through the program, students can talk to a friend who may be in need of help.

Jim Presto of Aevidum said the program is all about bringing a positive mental health environment in the schools in an effort to change the cultures within the schools.

Aevidum, a Lititz-based nonprofit, empowers youth to have their friends’ backs and create cultures of care and advocacy in schools across the nation.

Along with mental health experts, the organization has developed an authentic, age appropriate program that allows students to share information with their peers.

The intention is to start with the high school students and spread the message into the elementary schools.

Aevidum teaches students to take the time to talk to their friends and encourage them to talk to responsible adults, as well as drive awareness throughout the entire school.

Over 100 high schools and middle schools in Pennsylvania have adopted their model, which adapts to any existing initiatives a district has already implemented.

The training was sponsored by The Bo Tkach Foundation, and the family of Robert Best of Northern Lehigh.

For more information on Aevidum, visit www.aevidum.org.

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