Earlier this month, students from several high schools across Omaha gathered in front of Benson High School to pay tribute to a 16-year-old girl who was gunned down in the neighborhood.
The students also pledged not to be silent any longer when it came to violence. Now, a high school student at Papillion-La Vista High School used her class project to lead her school in tackling similar issues facing teens. The project targeted teen depression, self-affliction and suicide. It was being done one pumpkin at a time.
At first, it would seem pushing around a cart full of decorated pumpkins would be a benign way to raise awareness of teen depression and suicide. But for Papillion-La Vista senior Tiana Kelly, it's the best way to get the discussion rolling on such personal and often internal struggles.
"If we get the word out there that they are not the only ones, that we can make someone not feel alone and we can prevent another suicide."
Kelly's project is a fundraiser for To Write Love On Her Arms, a national program aimed at helping teens talk about issues that are too often only kept inside.
"People don't like to talk about because it is kind of a deeper, darker issue and so we just talked about some of the struggles they were going to face with that,” said Mary Janssen, marketing teacher and DECA Sponsor.
Kelly hopes by being a fellow student leading the way, others will open up. "An adult, it almost seems like they are just trying to teach us lessons, but if it is coming from someone our age then it's someone we can actually relate to."
Hence the pumpkins. Each pumpkin represented a class, each class donated $10 to enter the contest. In the end, the winner earned a donut and juice breakfast party, a small token for raising awareness of these issues school-wide. "Let people know that they are not alone, it's not something to be ashamed of,” Kelly said.
The second part of Kelly’s project is 7 p.m. Sunday inside the Papillion-La Vista auditorium, featuring a hypnotist.