Grand Canyon University

In each of the last four years, Grand Canyon University's arena has been packed with hundreds of middle and high school students for the Speak Up, Stand Up and Save Lives Conference but this year, it will be virtual.

For the last four years, hundreds of East Valley middle and high school students joined their counterparts from across the Valley to fill Grand Canyon University’s Arena for the Speak Up, Stand Up and Save Lives, a day-long assembly that enabled them to network and address solutions to bullying, self-harm, mental health stigma and suicide.

But as with so many other things in those students’ lives right now, the pandemic has required organizers to shift the gathering online – just at a time when more students are feeling isolated, depressed and disconnected, according to the National Association on Mental Illness.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to students, educators and parents,” the association said. “Children already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable to the changes, and now we are learning about the broad impacts on students as a result of schools being closed, physically distancing guidelines and isolation and other unexpected changes to their lives.” 

This year, the first virtual conference for Speak Up, Stand Up and Save Lives will run 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Jan. 19 and is free and open to any student, even those in elementary schools.

There will be interactive breakout sessions with age-appropriate topics “designed to connect students with mental health professionals who will engage, educate, and inspire lasting change,” organizers said. 

With the theme of Building Resilience, the agenda calls for presentations titled “Fizzling’s Funhouse” for K-2 students, “Focus on Well-being” for grades 2-5, “Resilience! Dale Ganas! With the UBU Project” for middle schoolers and “Learn to Vibe When Life has Other Plans” with the Arizona Psychological Foundation for high schoolers.

There also will be an adult session on strategies for building resilience in the classroom. 

The presentations at all levels, organizers said, are aimed at “building coping skills and lasting relationships for all attendees with action plans created to strengthen classrooms, schools and communities.” 

Dr. Lily Matos DeBlieux, Pendergast District Superintendent and Gina Godbehere, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Bureau Chief, are leading the event.

“We want every student throughout Arizona to participate in this day and to continue the work through campus clubs, organizations and connections,” they said in a joint statement. 

“Our youth are precious and deserve to be given the necessary tools for social and emotional well being during these challenging times.”

Sessions also are open to school staff and parents, as well as government leaders and law enforcement officers.



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