National Council

Hope Squad National Council

Welcome the 2022-2023 Hope Squad National Council

The Hope Squad National Council consists of Juniors and Seniors throughout the country who have served on their local Hope Squads at least one year. They continue to serve on their local squad while also serving as Hope Squad National Council members.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…
                        ~Emily Dickinson

Hope Squad National Council Advisors and Officers

Ruth Stanton McAtee

ADVISOR

I am the Advisor of Hope Squad National Council — a group of trained Hope Squad members who are passionate about connecting all Hope Squad members. I
have been an educator for 39 years and worked with Hope Squad for 10 years. Working with these amazing students on the Council is a tremendous honor and opportunity.

Kylee Tidwell

Advisor

I am the Assistant Advisor to the Hope Squad National Council. I have been blessed to serve on Hope Squad for the past three years. I am from Syracuse, Utah and I attend Utah State University majoring in Communications. My hope is that every person I come into contact with knows how much they are loved and valued, and I know that Hope Squad empowers me to make that happen.

Jahnavi Hansaria

Assistant Advisor

My name is Jahnavi Hansaria (she/her). I am from Wisconsin. In my free time, I love to learn about astrophysics and psychology. I also enjoy painting, playing the violin/piano, and spending time outdoors. I am grateful to be the Assistant Advisor of the Hope Squad National Council, to spread the valuable message of Hope Squad. I believe that together, we can make sure every individual feels valued and deserving of love.

Laila Nahas

Co-President

Hi! My name is Laila Nahas, and I am absolutely thrilled to be a member of Hope Squad National Council. I attend Woodbridge High School, in California. I’ve played competitive soccer ever since I was little, and enjoy singing in my school’s performing choir. I love contributing to reducing the stigma against mental health in all communities, including minority communities across our country, schools, and my own community.

Sanjana Ramakrishnan

Co-President

My name is Sanjana Ramekrishnan, and I attend Northwood High School in Irvine, California. Being on Hope Squad has given me opportunities that I never could have even imagined. The goal and message of Hope Squad is something that should be heard by everyone. I am so excited and grateful to serve on this year’s Hope Squad National Council. I look forward to all we will accomplish together.

Hope Squad National Council Members

Alivia Walker

Utah

Stansbury High School Hope Squad
Grantsville, Utah

Hello! I have been serving on the Hope Squad for two years and I am beyond excited to learn and serve more on the Hope Squad National Council! Some of my favorite things are people, hiking, and animal crackers (in that particular order). As I interact with people, I want them to see how great they are and how much good that they can do. My greatest hope is that we can work towards a community where everywhere feels like a hope squad because people feel more loved, seen, and heard, and because we are more comfortable talking about mental health.

Angelique Mackenzie Patterson

Florida

Choctawhatchee High School Hope Squad
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

I love reading classic novels, and young-adult fiction. One of my favorite books would have to be The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood! Mental health means everything, and I want you to know that I’m always here if you need someone to talk to. I love the phrase “Forward is forward, no matter the speed.” I think we all need to remember this when we find ourselves in a difficult place. Don’t be afraid to reach out; you’ll never be a burden.

Anjali Mittapally

California

Northwood High School Hope Squad
Irvine, California
I’m incredibly excited to be a member of the National Council this year. I’m from Southern California. I enjoy learning about psychology and working towards environmental sustainability in my spare time. Baking, drawing, and listening to music are some of my other pleasures. The mission of Hope Squad is something I’m really passionate about, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to spread positivity not only at my school but across the country. I believe that everyone deserves a support system and to know that they are valued in our world, and I think that we can achieve this by working together!

Anna Bookman

Nevada

Coronado High School Hope Squad
Henderson, Nevada

I’ve been a part of Hope Squad at my school since it’s creation at Del Webb Middle School. Now, three years later, Hope Squad has become a massive piece of my life, from the weekly meetings to planning school events that raise awareness for suicide and mental health. I hope to create an environment of kindness and empathy everywhere I go, and I intend to bring that attitude to the National Council so that every person I meet feels loved and appreciated.

Aspen Delis

Utah

Summit Academy High School Hope Squad
Bluffdale, Utah

I am incredibly excited and honored to be a member of the Hope Squad National Council. During the course of my high school career, I have been actively involved in building our school’s Hope Squad, and I look forward to becoming an integral part of this year’s National Council. I believe kindness and love is the key to spreading the message of hope. A few of my favorite activities include volunteering, photography, math, computer science, playing the piano, and competing on the varsity golf team.

Avery Benson

Utah

Bingham High School Hope Squad
South Jordan, Utah

I spend most of my time running with my cross country/track team, going on adventures with friends, and painting or drawing. I love learning about mental health and self care with my Hope Squad and I’m super excited for this opportunity to be on the Nation Council this year!

Bella Pham

Oklahoma

Crossings Christian School Hope Squad
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I enjoy playing golf, softball, or just taking a nap in my free time. I also enjoy listening to podcasts/music and cooking. I am very passionate about helping people and improving my community. I am incredibly thrilled and excited for the opportunity to bring my knowledge and ambition to make a difference not only in all communities, including minority communities, but across our country, schools, and around my own. While serving on the Hope Squad National Council I want to help break the stigma against mental health, and to help others recognize their self-worth through genuine connections! I believe that by collaborating, we can ensure that everyone feels valued and worthy of love!

Brendan Stock

Ohio

Kings High School Hope Squad
Kings Mills, Ohio

Hello! This will be my 5th year on my school’s Hope Squad and my first year on the Hope Squad National Council. I am beyond excited to be on the Council to help gain insights from other students around the country and to help spread my very own ideas. I love helping others especially when it comes to mental health. A little bit about me is that I run cross country and track, I love music, and I love to hangout with my friends. Just always remember that it is okay to not be okay.

Caitlyn Spaulding

Ohio

Lakota East High School Hope Squad
Liberty Township, OH

Hey everyone! I enjoy theater and love to act on stage. I am also a section leader of my school’s color guard. I have been a part of Hope Squad for 4 years now. I am incredibly proud that I am now a member of the Hope Squad National Council. I am honored and excited to be able to help my peers. Mental health is very important and is slowly being talked about more frequently in our daily lives. Hope can be found in many ways and one of those ways is kindness. I know being kind can help brighten any person’s day. And kindness is free…so go brighten someone’s day!

Diane Frecker

Ohio

Kings High School Hope Squad
Kings Mills, Ohio

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, and going on runs. I also enjoy stress-relievers like painting and listening to music. I have served on my current squad for one year, and can’t wait to continue my journey nationwide. I am delighted to serve on the National Council, raise awareness, and continue to eliminate the stigma around mental health.

Garrett Ordonez

Nevada

Foothill High School Hope Squad
Henderson, Nevada

I was born in Hawaii, but my family and I moved at a young age to Nevada. Moving is difficult. The result of it, however, will always be memorable. Being a part of this community has brought me nothing but satisfaction; from the organizations to the people met, all are supportive. That is what I would like to bring as a member of the Hope Squad National Council, outreach. I would like to not only support my state, but I would like to support the whole nation in spreading the word of Hope.

Grace Gunn

Utah

Farmington High Hope Squad
Farmington, Utah

Hello! This is my sixth year on the Hope Squad. I am a jack of all trades, master of none. Some of the hobbies I enjoy are singing, dancing, running long distance, painting, baking, reading, and I dabble in several instruments. I grew up in California, but I am a farm girl at heart, especially when it comes to plants or anything outdoorsy. My happy places are my orchard and the library. I am excited to be a part of the National Council and can’t wait to meet you all!

Julia Ashley

Washington

Waterville High School Hope Squad
Waterville, Washington

I’m super excited to be a part of the Hope Squad National Council. I love to draw, paint, and make jewelry. I also play volleyball. My goal is to reduce the stigma around mental health and make sure people know that they don’t have to struggle alone.

Kaiden DeBry

Utah

Stansbury High School Hope Squad
Tooele, Utah

I love dancing and performing arts and learning new things! I love to contribute to everyone and try to get rid of stigmas and generalizing people. I’m a hard worker and will work extremely hard for everyone to be loved, cared for, and equal.

Kaylee Denker

Nebraska

Lincoln East High School Hope Squad
Lincoln, Nebraska

Hello. Along with Hope Squad I am involved in varsity volleyball, basketball, track, equity cares, and also Key Club. On the Hope Squad National Council I hope to learn more about how to act in a professional manner in different situations that happen along with meeting new people that share the same interests as me.

Logenn Marziale

Utah

Salem Hills High School Hope Squad
Salem, Utah

Hi friends!! I’m so excited for this opportunity to be on the Hope Squad National Council! I love to listen and help others and Hope Squad is a great way to do that! I absolutely love cooking, baking, shopping and playing volleyball! I’m super passionate about Psychology and it’s what I want to study in college. I love spending time with people who are important to me, whether it’s family, friends, cousins, or my adorable nephew! Mental health is so important and such a priority! I’m so excited to make a difference with this amazing community!

Luca Feng

Nevada

Coronado High School Hope Squad
Henderson, Nevada

I’m more than excited to be working on this year’s national council! One of my favorite things to eat is tacos! I can eat tacos pretty much everyday, anywhere; Korean Barbecue comes in as a close second. I love to bake cakes and macarons with my friends for birthdays, parties, or any special occasion. I’m most excited for the opportunity of getting to work with and know people from all around the country who are just as passionate about Hope Squad as me. I hope that I can offer a sliver of who I am to not just Nevadans, but to everyone.

Madilyn Winter

Wisconsin

Brookfield Central High School Hope Squad
Brookfield, Wisconsin

I am so thrilled to serve on the National Council for the 2022-2023 school year. I want to make a positive impact on each community I am a part of and being a member of the National Council allows me to encourage Hope Squad members from all over! I am especially passionate about self care and rest and cannot wait to empower my fellow Hope Squad members. In the future, I would love to be involved in psychology to further my passion for supporting those around me.

Madison Hunt

Oklahoma

Crossings Christian School Hope Squad
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I am so excited to serve on the National Council this year. I enjoy golfing, relaxing, and being on my school’s pom dance group. I am passionate about impacting my community by advocating for mental health. My favorite way to make an impact is using creative projects to spread joy and positivity through my school and surroundings. My goal is to empower teens to be a light to others and open conversations about mental health.

Maia Lopez

Texas

Carroll High School Hope Squad
Southlake, Texas

I’m so honored to be part of this year’s Hope Squad National Council. I love growing plants and listening to music whenever I can. I also really enjoy listening to podcasts, especially TED Talks. I am honored to be part of the Hope Squad National Council and to be able to spread kindness and positivity. I believe that mental health is very important and that everyone deserves to feel valued and appreciated.

Manvi Srivastava

Texas

Rock Hill High School Hope Squad
Frisco, Texas

I’m absolutely honored to be part of the Hope Squad National Council! I’ve been in Hope Squad for 2 years and I’m excited to contribute more to the program. In my high school career, I’m involved in the Hope Squad, band, NHS and other clubs as well. Being involved in many activities made me realize how important it is to take care of mental health. While serving on the national council, my goal is to reduce the stigma around mental health and emphasize the importance self care.

Micah Gallebo

Ohio

Hilliard Bradley High School Hope Squad
Hilliard, OH

Being in Hope Squad has allowed me to spread positivity and Hope to more people throughout my community. It has also given me a platform to break the stigma around mental health. In my free time you’ll find me listening to my favorite musical artists such as Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Luke Combs and Chris Stapleton. I’m so excited to serve on the National Council and can’t wait to see what we accomplish.

Munashe Tanjani

Utah

Hillcrest High School Hope Squad
Midvale, Utah

I’ve been on Hope Squad for 2 years. Everything I’ve learned has made me a better person and a better peer. I want you to know that you are valuable and loved by someone you don’t even know. Let’s meet up one day and talk about life, or Marvel, or music, or just have a laugh together. That’s what hope is about.

Natalee Judy

Idaho

Bonneville High School Hope Squad
Idaho Falls, ID

Hey! I’m a small town country livin’ girl from Eastern Idaho. I love to do 4‑H and be around all my farm animals. My family has a ranch and it’s my favorite thing ever! I love driving dirt roads while blasting old country music. This is my third year in Hope Squad and it’s amazing! I have made so many new friends and I’ve been able to help many people. I cannot wait for all the experiences that will come as I serve on the Hope Squad National Council.

Nora McNabb

Illinois

Loyola Academy Hope Squad in Willmette, IL
Chicago, Illinois

In addition to serving as outreach chair sophomore and junior year, I have a deep passion for mental health in general, my faith, and the performing arts, specifically choir. When my choir teacher came up to me on how to organize a collaborative choir concert, I was thrilled because I love to connect my passions. Being a member of Hope squad has changed me for the better which is why I’m so grateful that I have the chance to return it by serving on National Council.

Rae Johnson

Nevada

Coronado High School Hope Squad
Henderson, Nevada

I’m pleased to be on the Hope Squad National Council. Spreading mental health is a passion of mine. Along with spreading awareness, I enjoy playing viola in my school’s orchestra and listening to music. I’m grateful to have this position because it allows me to reach out to those who are struggling. Being a part of something way bigger than myself empowers me to be a real life example of how your mental troubles don’t define who you are as a person.

Reese Jones

Texas

Rock Hill High School Hope Squad
Prosper, Texas

I am a part of my school’s theatre, and when I am not in rehearsal, I love to play my guitar and read! I am so excited to be a part of Hope Squad National Council and I am so incredibly grateful that I can help kids my age all around America!

Savannah St. Pierre

Louisiana

Lutcher High School Hope Squad
Lutcher, Louisiana

I am so thrilled to be a part of the Hope Squad
National Council this year! I am a student at Lutcher High School, in the great state of
Louisiana. I am involved in my school's Senior Beta Club and I am obsessed with Disney! I am very passionate about changing the stigma related to suicide. It has a very close
meaning to my community and I am so excited to be able to spread awareness for suicide
prevention with the rest of the world. Let’s Do This Together!

Spencer Johansen

Utah

Bingham High School Hope Squad
South Jordan, Utah

I love listening to music and playing basketball and volleyball. I enjoy going on hikes and being around my friends and family. I also love Hope Squad and am super excited and grateful for the opportunity I have to be on the Hope Squad National Council this year.

Sydney Vargo

Ohio

William Mason High School Hope Squad
Mason, OH

I could not be more excited to expand my Hope Squad experience into the national council! In my free time, I play the flute in the marching band and participate in musical theatre. I have a younger brother that I love to dance around my kitchen with and two dogs that I love to hike with. With an outrageously rigorous academic and social life I love to drive around in my car, Murray, and sing for self-care. I love meeting and learning about new people and I can’t wait to learn more about others and myself while serving this year on National Council!

Taylee Wurm

Utah

Weber High School Hope Squad
North Ogden, Utah

I love spending time outdoors. I like to hike, mountain bike, paddle board, and much more. I also can play the piano and I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I’ve spent the past 5 years on my school’s Hope Squad and I am so excited to be a part of the Hope Squad National Council! I am passionate about the message that Hope Squad promotes and I enjoy spreading messages of kindness and hope wherever and whenever I can!

Z'Haria Lemar

Louisiana

Lutcher High School Hope Squad
Lutcher, Louisiana

I am incredibly honored to serve on the Hope Squad National Council this year! I enjoy reading, playing volleyball and going for drives with my music blasting. For the past three years Hope Squad has been an essential part of my life. Watching the way hope squad helped to bring my close-knit community out of an extremely dark place after suffering through some very tough losses of students, brings me joy on my darkest days. Together we can work to stop the stigma surrounding mental health because the first step in preventing suicide is not being afraid to talk about it.

2022-2023 Hope Squad National Council at Work

Cincinnati area kids are struggling with mental health. So, what’s being done?

by: Madeline Mitchell and Terry DeMio Cincinnati Enquirer

Lakota East senior Caitlyn Spaulding says she was honored her freshman year to get nominated for Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program used in schools across the country. With that nomination came the responsibility of checking in on her  classmates’ mental health, which she says can be overwhelming at times. Especially since she’s noticed her peers’ mental health decline since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we think someone’s going to commit suicide, it’s a very hard job, but we have to be straight-up with them and be like, ‘Hey, I’m really concerned for you. Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Do you have a plan?’ Like, those are very big questions to ask,  specially for a high schooler, I feel like,” Spaulding says.

Mental health struggles on the rise for region’s children

Prevention First conducted a survey in late 2021 with 26,260 students in grades 7-12 in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties. Here’s what it found.
1 in 3 students want to be alone all the time.
Wanting to be alone is a telltale sign that a child’s mental health could be on the decline, experts say.
1 in 10 have contemplated suicide.
Cincinnati Children’s is building a new mental health hospital in College Hill to help kids in acute crisis.
1 in 4 feel depressed, sad or hopeless most of the time.
Local school districts are working to add resources and partner with area providers to address the growing mental health needs of their students.
Source: Prevention First

She says she hasn’t been in a situation where she’s had to ask those specific questions, but she’s trained for it. She has brought friends to the counselor’s office, taken students on walks to de-stress and consulted with other Hope Squad members when she’s found  concerning posts from kids on social media. There are about 80 Hope Squad members districtwide, between both Lakota high schools and the freshmen campuses.

“We say that we would rather lose a friendship than a friend, that’s what we say in Hope Squad,” she says.

‘Kids are suffering, and as a community, we need to wrap our arms around them’

The Cincinnati region’s children and young adults are struggling with their mental health, just as kids are nationwide. As students’ needs rise and barriers to help are uncovered, including a lack of mental health professionals in some areas, local schools and community providers reflect on whether enough is being done to save kids from themselves.

“Kids are suffering, and as a community, we need to wrap our arms around them,” says Kate Schroder, president and CEO of Interact for Health, a regional health equity and funding nonprofit based in Kenwood and covering Cincinnati area counties.

A recent survey sheds glaring light on the region’s problem:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 local students in grades 7-12 reported a desire to be alone all the time, a Prevention First 2022 student survey shows.
  • More than 1 in 10 of these students have contemplated suicide, the same survey reveals.
  • More than half reported having high levels of stress.
  • Almost 1 in 4 responded that they feel sad, hopeless or depressed most of the time.

Kids’ mental health needs were already on an upswing in the United States before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, but missed school, less social interaction and family and economic troubles exacerbated the problem, experts say. From March through October 2020, the proportion of mental health-related visits to emergency departments increased by 24% for children 5 to 11 years old and by 31% among kids ages 12 to 17 compared with the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only about half the kids who have mental health conditions receive treatment

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in children’s mental health. They cited a heavy toll from the COVID-19 pandemic on existing challenges.

But because of stigma, accessibility to treatment in some communities and a general misunderstanding of mental health problems, only about half the kids who have mental health conditions receive treatment, and “even fewer receive evidence-based treatment,” says Dr. Michael Sorter, director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Hope Squad members at Milford High School say there are many reasons kids won’t feel comfortable talking with their parents. Some parents compare their teenage experiences with their kids’ current struggles, which isn’t always accurate, 17-year-old Ariana Carranza says. Social media has been a game changer in the world of teen mental health and has created a lot of stress.

Milford High School Hope Squad members from left to right: Macie Bach, Ariana Carranza, Emma Senter. Enquirer/Madeline Mitchell

“A lot of the times, kids are scared to go and get professional help,” Milford High School Hope Squad member Macie Bach says.

But they should get it, Sorter says, because the right kind of treatment usually helps kids get better.

Rural communities struggle to get kids the right treatment

There is some good news: Mental health has “a big footprint” in pediatric care in the Cincinnati region, Sorter says. Pediatricians watch kids closely for mental health needs and there is a communitywide commitment to mental health care. Nearly every public  school has an embedded mental health program, many of which partner with community providers like MindPeace and Beech Acres Parenting Center.

MindPeace helps schools understand the mental health needs of students and provides schools with support or resources. Beech Acres’ Beyond the Classroom program provides children with assessments for behavioral and mental health conditions and directs their parents to community and school services that could help. The program is in schools in Hamilton, Warren and Clinton counties.

Wynnette Boykin, Beyond the Classroom program manager, says the agency is seeing an increased need for supportive services, especially since the pandemic, and is involved in more schools as a result. Beyond the Classroom was in 26 schools last school year and expanded to 30 schools this year.

“It definitely has been a challenge,” Boykin says. “We have an increase in struggles. A lot of kids are stressed out.”

These needs are reflected in rural areas near Cincinnati, but access to care in those places is more limited.

Allison Stone, a school psychologist at Grant County Schools in Northern Kentucky, says her district is focused on bringing in school-based therapists through community partnerships because transportation is the main issue for rural students. There is no public transportation in the county, she says, and it could take an hour or longer for parents to get their kids to Cincinnati Children’s for appropriate services, if their insurance covers it in the first place. It’s nearly impossible to manage with some parents’ work schedules and finances, especially with high gas prices.

There are shortfalls with solely school-based support, too, mainly in the realm of consistent care and relationship-building.

“Do I think there’s enough mental health providers? No, absolutely not,” Stone says. But even with the contracted help they do have, when therapists leave, “their client, our student, gets left behind.”

The stigma around mental health has lessened slightly in her community in the last several years, Stone says, which she thinks helps kids feel more comfortable when asking for help. But there’s still a way to go, and Stone says it starts at home where parents can and should have conversations about mental health with their children.

Many students still don’t know how to get the resources they need on their own

Kids need and want their parents to ask them how they are doing, Spaulding says. While the stigma around mental health has decreased since her freshman year, many students still don’t know how to get the resources they need on their own. A lot of students at Lakota East “don’t even know that we have the therapists,” she says.