Fall Academy: Two cohorts rev up at start of Forefront in the Schools

With two cohorts of high schools from across Washington state now in the Forefront in the Schools program, a new dynamic is emerging.

Thirteen schools are entering the program’s third and final year feeling prepared to mentor their new peers. “One of the most valuable aspects of this program has been collaboration with other schools,” said one participant. “We would welcome a mentorship with the new cohort.”

This new mentorship model was just one sliver of the daylong conversations that unfolded during two Fall Academies, held at the UW School of Social Work. The academies are the annual kick-off to this highly lauded suicide prevention program.

Opening the new cohort’s Academy, University Prep Headmaster Matt Levinson spoke to the crowd: “Forefront in the Schools dramatically changed our school in many ways – our systems and culture,” he said. He also underscored the value of networking within Forefront in the Schools, reinforcing the support for mentoring.

For both cohorts, sharing quality information was the name of the game. Professor Jim Mazza from the UW School of Education presented to the new cohort on suicide prevention basics and preparing for the year ahead.

The new group also acquainted itself with LEARN™ suicide prevention trainings, crisis plan overviews, and postvention to reduce risk and promote healing after a suicide death. They came away from the day realizing that suicide is not a selfish act, and that compassion and directness can help them talk with students who may be at risk.

School teams in the original cohort dove right into new material on social/emotional learning. A favorite resource for this group was Set to Go, a new online program from the Jed Foundation that supports the transition from high school to college.

Other topics for the third-year group included screening tools and sustainability efforts. The teams shared successes, too. Woodinville High School students, for instance, designed stickers and coasters with suicide prevention messages. The stickers were seen all over student computers.

All told, about 185 administrators, counselors, teachers and parent representatives attended the academies, hailing from as close as Ballard and as far away as Colville in Eastern Washington.