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Local group selected by high school students to win $2500 grant for suicide prevention

Champions of Change received $2,500 grant from South Medford High School Key Club Community 101. (Carsyn Currier/News 10){ }{p}{/p}
Champions of Change received $2,500 grant from South Medford High School Key Club Community 101. (Carsyn Currier/News 10)

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Champions of Change, a focus group of teens that comes together to connect through open conversations about suicide and depression, was selected by students of South Medford High school to win the 'Community 101' grant for $2500.

Jesus Nunez, President of SMHS Key Club, said they sent out a school-wide survey where students had the opportunity to vote for an organization.

"What came up as the highest result was teen mental health and suicide prevention," Nunez said.

After interviewing multiple local organizations, Nunez said they picked Champions of Change because they were actively communicating with teens about mental health and depression.

"We liked that their purpose was to hold an open discussion with teens, and we thought that the best way to fight this issue was to have a discussion with the people who were directly involved," Nunez said.

In light of COVID-19 Ruby Cabera, SMHS Community 101 Lead, said champions of change was a perfect fit.

"If you think about it, there's some kids where their safe place was school. Now that the're at home, it's really difficult on them," Cabera said.

Susan Holt and Andrea Berryman Childreth started Champions of Change this year after a local South Medford High School student lost his life to suicide.

"We need this kind of platform for kids. Susan and I have both been through a lot with our families and our experiences, and our kids. We're seeing the increase in teen suicide it's the number one cause of death right now in the state of Oregon, and there's less and less resources," Childreth said.

Holt said it really means a lot that the students are the ones that chose their organization.

"It's nice to know that they're seeing the importance of what we're doing and the work we want to do. The kids see it, and that they chose it," Holt said.

Holt lost her daughter, Grace to suicide when she was 15, and Childreth said her daughter has struggled with mental health issues and has been in and out of treatment over the past two years.

News 10 spoke to Champions of Change following their first two meetings in March, and both mothers said they were shocked by the response from teens.

"What I was really surprised about was not necessarily that social media is really impacting them, or it's making them feel alone or feel anxious, cause I feel anxious with social media," said Childreth. "It was the intensity and the emotion that they were showing behind it that I was like, holy cow, this is a problem."

High school seniors said they need Champions of Change now more than ever, after missing out on so many milestones due to COVID-19.

"Not having school in session right now, is probably really hard on a lot of kids. So, holding things like Champions of Change helps kids to get back what they lost at school," said Jill Rosie Holt, SMHS senior.

Talia Hutchins, SMHS senior, said canceled sports seasons is another reason why teens are struggling right now.

"For a lot of kids school is really important for them, but also the social aspect of sports is huge for mental health. So, I think that champions of change is really important for them or just help a little bit with the emotions that come from missing a senior season, or not being able to be with your team every day or just the mental benefits of working out," Hutchins said.

Champions of Change hopes to use their grant money to hold a special event for high school seniors that had to miss out on graduation, prom, and their last months of high school due to COVID-19.

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