PARKER – In the Sierra Middle School gym, a furious game of knockout basketball was sending students from one end of the court to the other. In a classroom down the hall, students were getting a chance to meet and pet a beautiful therapy dog from the Mountain Vista High School therapy dog program. Near the school’s entrance, students were throwing on feathered boas, funny hats and Kanye West-inspired eyewear for a polaroid-themed photobooth. For the students and staff of Sierra, these stations of the Healthy Activities Night helped drive home a key component of a special program at the school, Sources of Strength.
Sources of Strength is a nationwide program that helps prevent youth suicide, bullying and substance abuse. The program, which has been vetted by the district’s prevention team and implemented in several schools throughout the Douglas County School District, utilizes young peer leaders to cultivate positive environments in their schools. Relying on 8 key components - mentorship, family support and mental health, healthy activities, positive friends, generosity, medical access and spirituality - Sources of Strength gives students multiple levels of support for physical and emotional well-being.
The healthy activities component was chosen as a theme for the evening because it provided an avenue for a fun evening for families.
“It’s easy to find a lot of fun things to do with healthy activities, and there’s a lot to do here tonight,” said Tiffany Anderson, a counselor and Sources of Strength lead at Sierra.
Coordinated by the Sierra Sources of Strength students leaders, the evening offered a variety of healthy activities, including sports, bingo and meditation. Anderson says the students came up with all the activities, and that the ownership in events like this, and in the Sources of Strength program (which is in its first year at Sierra) is what makes them effective.
“That’s the whole premise of Sources [of Strength],” said Anderson. “It’s a student-led program, and they drive the culture and climate they end up participating in at the school.”
In an effort to further community building, local elementary students from the Chaparral High School feeder were invited to take part in the Healthy Activity Night to give incoming 7th graders a glimpse of life at Sierra, and how Sources of Strength has added to the school’s culture.
What they experienced were Sierra students trying to establish better, healthier habits.
“You see a lot of kids now on their phones all the time,” said Sierra Middle School 7th grader and Sources of Strength Team Member Ava Sprague. “So we wanted to promote going outside, or just doing something good for your body.”
According to Ava, making healthier choices is key to maintaining emotional fitness as well.
“I think it helps a lot, your body is meant to be up and running, and eating healthy, and those things can lead to you feeling better," she said.
The event lasted 2 hours, and the visiting families were free to roam from station to station. Though students had fun with rounds of knockout, smoothie breaks and video game dance-offs, Ava hopes the most important takeaway those incoming middle schoolers got from the evening was noting the culture they’re building at Sierra.
“Sources of Strength has brought the school together," said Ava. "There’s not a lot of bullying at this school, and everyone is just part of a close family here at Sierra.”