Forest Hills debuts new ‘Never Alone’ program aimed at improving school culture

Mar. 27—SIDMAN, Pa. — Forest Hills High School senior Shawn Yatsky said since his classmate’s suicide, the school environment has changed, but after hearing Chad Brown’s Never Alone presentation Tuesday, he was reassured something is being done to address issues in the district.

“It’s definitely going to help people,” Yatsky said.

Brown, a motivational speaker and pastor at Salix Bethel Church who stepped up after a public outcry spurred by 17-year-old Brandyn Truscott’s death, demanded change at Forest Hills — especially involving bullying.

The local leader thought long about a response, reflecting on his own experiences, and came up with a collection of student-run clubs aimed at improving school culture through actions that highlight everyone has value.

He debuted the Never Alone program Tuesday to a packed auditorium of students who were invited to listen but weren’t required to be there.

The offering will have three segments — culture, support and media clubs — that meet weekly on Fridays.

Each group of students will have a teacher adviser and work together toward the goal of making Forest Hills a better place for students.

Brown said the support students are the scouts.

They’ll gather information about what’s going on in the school and what needs addressed to report back to the advisers.

From there, students in the culture club will use those details to create a positive environment through theme days and activities.

The media club’s responsibility will be to combat negativity through curated weekly videos and social media posts.

Together, the three arms of Never Alone will help people be seen, Brown said.

“Every single thing we do moving forward. Every single thing this school does moving forward has to be about making a difference,” he said.

Brown stressed that could be as simple as checking up on classmates and making sure they’re OK, giving someone a high-five, or sitting with someone at lunch who’s alone.

He also repeated that the work isn’t going to be easy and challenged the teenagers, including bullies, to do better for each other.

Brown said even one student feeling alone or feeling like they have to end their life is too many.

“Our job as humans is to move closer,” Brown said. “We have to step into the mess sometimes.”

However, he acknowledged Never Alone won’t fix everything as well and forewarned those who chose to participate that they likely will be made fun of for doing so.

Regardless of those hurdles, Brown encouraged the students to band together, telling them in a month that he wants them to run the program on their own.

At the end of the presentation, the speaker put a QR code on the screen for students to sign up for the clubs — the darkened auditorium was lit by dozens of phone screens — and handed out Never Alone bracelets. Nearly every student went to the stage to get one.

Yatsky said he hopes the program teaches his peers to talk to one another and pay attention to each other.

He knew Truscott personally and said his friend’s passing has taken a toll on him.

Yatsky added that he does think there’s “a little bit of bullying in the school,” and although he considers the district’s response to the matter to be late, he’s glad school leaders are doing something.

Joshua Morrison, a senior helping get Never Alone off the ground, said the area and school is hurting right now.

That’s why he wants to help make a difference — likely in the support club.

Morrison said Brown’s message spoke to the students and he wants to see the program spread to neighboring schools and communities.

Kevin Brown, a junior also helping kick-start the movement, agreed.

“I think it’s impactful and really important we come together,” he said.

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