BELLWOOD - Bellwood-Antis High School students are looking out for each other.
A group of eight students including seniors Abby Bouslough and Kristin Davis, are leading a newly established group called "Aevidum" - Latin for "I've Got Your Back."
The official name of the organization is "Aevidum Empowered by Minding Your Mind" - a combination of Aevidum and Minding Your Mind organizations.
Aevidum was started by Joe Vulopas, an English teacher at Cocalico High School, and a group of eight students in 2004 in Lancaster County following the suicide of a student in November 2003.
In 2012, Aevidum partnered with Philadelphia-based Minding Your Mind to form Alliances across the state and the nation.
Vulopas serves as the executive director of Aevidum and the director of education for Minding Your Mind. The club - referred to by Vulopas an an "alliance" - as a support system that focuses on suicide and depression awareness and other issues facing teens.
"There are tons of kids who have problems and need help. We want to be there and be a support system," Davis said. "If you are depressed, it is not something to be ashamed of. It is an illness that can be treated; we want to spread that word."
"Depression is not something to be ashamed of. We want people to know the signs of depression and how they can help.We want to spread the word about Aevidum," Bouslough said. "Our goal is to bring the school together for one good cause."
The goal is to save lives, Vulopas said.
"The goal of Aevidum is to empower students to deal with the top issues that teens face today. This is done by connecting them with motivated, caring adults who create nurturing environments that encourage students to use their gifts and talents to educate themselves and their peers in order to improve their school community," said BAHS Spanish teacher Christine Claar, alliance adviser.
The students learned about Aevidum at a seminar Oct. 15 at Penn State Altoona.
"The students who attended the seminar were so enthusiastic and passionate about what they learned," Claar said.
Claar and Lisa Hartsock, high school principal, said the formation of the Aevidum alliance is a good idea.
"I think that it is wonderful and long overdue. It is tough being a teenager in this day and age. They (teenagers) are facing so many more issues than we ever did. Anything that can be done to help students cope with the issue(s) they are facing is a great thing. It's nice to know that you're not alone and that someone will be there for you," Claar said. "I've got your back" isn't just a phrase, it's a way of life."
"I think it is a great idea, one of my goals as principal is to improve our climate.We want to build a culture where kids are looking out for each other," Hartsock said.
Bouslough and Davis hope to get all of the school's approximately 425 students to sign the pledge that says that no matter who it is, what the problem is, or whatever the circumstances, you will have your fellow students backs, and in return, they'll have your back as well.
The group hasn't decided what all they will do as an alliance.
"One thing is to raise awareness of the issues that teens are facing and sponsor activities for the different issues. We would like to get the parents and our entire community involved," Claar said. "We are still in the planning stages and are working on a few ideas."
Although it has been around since 2004 Aevidum is still relatively new and is growing.
"Currently there are 20 alliances. By the end of the school year, we will have more than 100 across the state," Vulopas said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.