In the last few years, Laurens District 55 High School faculty and students have lost too many current and former students to suicide.
Now a 5K planned for this Saturday morning by “Laurens Un;ted” will raise scholarship funds for a LDHS senior planning to pursue studies in the mental health field.
Under the direction of Cross Country Coach Thomas Moore, the 5K and one-mile run will start at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 24 at the Lake Rabon Fishing Pier, 647 Lake Rabon Drive, Laurens. Registration is available on go-greenevent.com until early Thursday morning, but it’s also available the morning of the run.
LDHS faculty members Rob Sheffield and Brooke Yarbrough last year had formed Raiders Un;ted with their respective student groups, Robotz Garage FIRST 4451 and LDHS Student Council. Both groups had been impacted by the suicide of former students.
The student groups took a cue from the nationwide suicide prevention initiative, Project Semicolon, “Your life is not over,” where the semicolon represents the understanding that difficulties may bring about a pause in a life, but not the end.
Moore suggested the idea of using the 5K as a fundraiser. The registration fees of $27.87 for the 5K, and a one-mile walk/run for $12.04, will help fund a scholarship for an LDHS student pursuing a degree related to mental health. This is the first year for this 5K and the first year that Raiders Un;ted expanded into Laurens Un;ted.
“The Mental Health Scholarship is one of the cornerstones of Raider’s Un;ted,” Sheffield said. “The first recipient of the scholarship was Jessica Putman who is attending USC this fall and majoring in Psychology.”
This expansion to Laurens Un;ted was one of the goals from the early months of Raiders Un;ted, Sheffield said, and they also plan to continue to get the topic of suicide and suicide prevention out in the open, and eventually even have chapters in the district’s middle schools.
Last week was a highlight in the expansion of the concept, Sheffield said.
Laurens Un;ted T-shirts were presented to each of the District 55 staff for an inservice day as the teachers prepared for the new school year.
“It was a special day for our district,” Sheffield said. “The district office provided every teacher with a T-shirt and asked that we all wear it to the meeting. I got chills when I looked at a room with my peers with ‘Laurens Un;ted’ on the back of every shirt. Those student leaders from the robotics team and student council wanted to start a conversation about mental health, and last week was proof that they have succeeded.”