Many people know of, or have personally experienced, the devastation that comes with suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause for people under the age of 35. For the young people of this country, data shows suicide’s prevalence is likely to continue growing.
Oxford Middle School students spent their fall semester raising money to help put a stop to that devastation. On Dec. 21, the students found out they had raised a little over $8,800 that will all go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) efforts in reminding people all they have to live for.
The students previously voted to raise funds for AFSP after they nominated a number of potential causes to support, according to OMS Principal Dacia Beazley. Forty-eight percent voted for AFSP.
They collected all of the money during a four-day penny war, which is a type of fund-raising competition.
The students sat in an assembly on the morning of the 21st revolving around taking care of and looking out for one another. Choir students sang, the band and orchestra played, art students showcased signs made in support of AFSP and a few speakers shared their wisdom regarding the sensitive subject.
Professional magician Anthony Grupido, a 23-year-old Lake Orion native, participated in the assembly by performing magic tricks and speaking with students about his experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts. He urged them to seek help from their friends, family and school counselors.
While he donned a strait jacket, Grupido reminded the kids that there’s always a healthy way to get through whatever life throws at them.
“A lot of people would tell you there’s not a way out . . . But most things that hold us down are just an illusion,” he said.
Two Oxford High School graduates and former OMS students, Riley Juntti and Dylan Koss, came back to their hometown to remind the middle schoolers there’s always a reason to keep going. In 2017, Juntti and Koss were two of OHS’ 13 students who participated in the school’s “13 Reasons Why NOT” initiative, which ended up being featured on ABC News.
Juntti and Koss encouraged the students to look out for one another, leaving them with a familiar quote from Albus Dumbledore, a fictional character in the “Harry Potter” book series.
“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
The students ended the assembly celebrating their achievement by presenting a big check to a representative from AFSP, full of smiles and cheers.