Care enough to get in the way

by Lily Matos DeBlieux

Pendergast Elementary School District superintendent

As a mother, grandmother and school superintendent, I am deeply troubled. A recent published report by the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program states that 768 Arizona children died last year, and 39 percent of those deaths were preventable. The report goes on to say that suicides have increased 81 percent since 2009, citing that one critical factor is the stigma associated with asking for help.

Upon reading these startling statistics, I, along with two women, Jennifer Rogers with GCON Inc., and Gina Godbehere with the Community Based Prosecution Division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, alumni from Leadership West Class 22, decided to take this on as a cause and help eradicate these tragedies. The first step is an inaugural student-led #CareEnough to Get in the Way Youth Conference. The conference, the first of its kind, will be held Jan. 26 at ASU West from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The conference will bring students, police chiefs, government officials, parents and teachers together and provide the tools to take back to their schools with the goal to inspire the 50,000 students in their own schools to Speak Up, Stand Up and Save A Life. To date, Pendergast, along with 13 other districts, are committed to attending the conference and taking back strategies that will create action plans to save lives. To make this a reality, the conference co-founders realized change was within reach, and to make a difference, every sector needs to get involved and have a plan. As part of the plan, the mastermind group collaborated with Larry Tracey and Youth4Youth, a local nonprofit that previously collaborated with the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office to organize many effective student summits after the Columbine High School shooting.

Tragedies, such as bullying, murders and suicide, are happening locally and around the country. These tragedies have brought forward similarities to many other chilling tragedies where there were warning signs on social media but no action. We firmly believe that this conference is desperately needed in our schools and presents an ideal opportunity to help bridge the gap between our local community, the government and law enforcement in a positive way, and we would like nothing more than to spark a movement for kids to reconnect to each other and #CareEnough to Get in the Way.

West Valley school districts involved in the project include the Avondale Elementary, Pendergast Elementary, Phoenix Union High School, Peoria Unified, Buckeye Elementary, Buckeye Union High School, Tolleson Elementary, Tolleson Union and Glendale Elementary districts and the Arizona Charter Academy.

Through this conference, the goal is to reduce the statistics and have students take responsibility to Speak up, Stand up and Save a life! They will show all of us that they will not be silent anymore and they will care enough to get in the way!

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