A prosecutor wants kids to know how to speak up when their friends need help
On a morning in 2016, Gina Godbehere was called out to a grisly scene at Independence High School in Glendale.
Not much shook her. She’d been a prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for more than 20 years.
This shook her.
Two 15-year-old girls were dead, lying next to each other near a covered outdoor patio. Each girl suffered a single gunshot wound. A murder-suicide.
Godbehere has two daughters, both in high school now.
“As a mother, to see two young lives lost was heartbreaking,” she said.
Godbehere learned there had been warning signs, messages on social media, but no one intervened.
She understood. Kids grow up being told not to be a tattletale. But sometimes it's the right thing.
To deliver that message to kids, she joined Lily Matos DeBlieux, superintendent of the Pendergast School District, and they recruited educators, attorneys, law enforcement officials, mental health and health care experts and community leaders.
The result: the Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life Youth Conference.
The first year, 800 students learned how to tell when someone was in trouble, to tell a trusted adult about depression, suicide, grief, abuse and bullying.
Last year, the project's fifth, 5,000 kids participated.
Godbehere's message: “If it comes from the heart, speaking up is the right thing to do, and it may save your friend’s life.”
Adults learned about warning signs, to listen, unflinchingly, how to help and what resources were available.
Students started clubs, wearing T-shirts identifying themselves as someone safe to talk to. Teachers joined.
They created anonymous text tip lines and boxes where students could leave concerns.
On Jan. 19, for the first time, the conference is online. It's free. Everyone is invited.
It's more important now when students are isolated, learning remotely, their extracurricular activities canceled, Godbehere said.
“We need them to know there is hope,” she said. “We are going to get through this together.”
Register at speakstandsave.com.
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