CINCINNATI — It’s hard enough to be a high school student, but tack on the pandemic and it’s been a rough year for teenagers. That’s why high school students in southwest Ohio are prioritizing mental health and looking after each other. 

What You Need To Know

  • Lakota high school students in the Hope Squad planned a full week's worth of activities to prioritize mental health awareness

  • The group planned a Hope Walk, to allow for students across the district to take a break from the stresses of school work and get some fresh air

  • The Hope Squad is a peer-nominated group that helps bring awareness to suicide prevention and mental health awareness

  • The Hope Squad hopes they can be a resource for students if they need someone to talk to

​​It’s a treat to be outside, especially in the middle of the school day.

“I’m not even thinking about homework anymore because when I was sitting at my desk all I could think about was how many tests I had this week so yeah, it’s relaxing out here," Lora Broz, a junior at Lakota West High School, said.

That was the intention behind the first Hope Walk planned by Lora Broz and the Hope Squad at Lakota West High School, a group of peer-nominated students that look out for the well-being of student’s mental health.

“We’re kind of like the ears and eyes of what we see to be able to allow students to get help if they know we’re struggling but they don’t exactly know what to do," Broz said.

While Broz and her classmates got their steps in, it’s a reminder that the Hope Squad is there for each other.

“I’m very passionate about helping people and I do realize how difficult it is to receive help when you are struggling and that you don’t necessarily want to get help or admit that you’re struggling," Broz said.

For Broz, it has become more personal with her own mental health struggles.

“I actually did counseling myself last year when I was going through some rough times," she said. "It actually took the other Hope Squad members that I’m a part of to get me to actually go to the counselor’s office.”

Broz and members of the Hope Squad said that through planning events like the Hope Walk, it allows for their classmates to feel more connected in an already strange year.

“I definitely think it brings us more together," Broz said. "Like how, since we are having a live band playing, it kind of reminds people of football games or just being together and pep rallies and stuff like that. I definitely think it normalizes what high school usually is.”

While high school isn’t always easy, Broz hopes she and other Hope Squad members can remind others that things will be alright.

“It is OK to not be OK," she said.