Creating Connections

Junior starts a group to provide mental health support for students


The creator of Creating Connections for Cardinals: Hailey Hickman

In the last month of the 2020-2021 school year, junior Hailey Hickman, came to counselor Jorie Depalma with a pitch. They wanted to create their own club to bring awareness of sexual harassment and assault to students along with making a secure setting for conversation.

“I know how it feels to be trapped and you don’t feel like anyone is going to understand you or you feel like no one else has experienced it before but we have,” Hickman said. “And I feel like it was my job to bring it to everybody’s attention.”

A new SHS club called Creating Connections for Cardinals will provide a safe environment regarding sexual abuse, mental health and suicide through positive student connections.

They created the club with hopes to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault, more specifically instances where it happens in school. The topics of suicide, connections and mental health made their way into the agenda when grouping together with Depalma and english teacher Jake Fritz.

When Hickman reached out to her, Depalma was ready to support. Hickman had a desire to help spread information about people’s experiences with it.

“They wanted to spread awareness and I could tell they just had a passion to do something about it,” Depalma said.


The club is off to a great start. As it’s taking its first steps, things seem to be going smoothly.

 that same time, the Department of Education released a grant for student-led groups who promoted school safety. Hickman and Depalma worked together to apply for it and ended up receiving the $12,000.

Members are close and all super supportive of each other’s ideas and thoughts. The atmosphere is nice and everyone gets along well at meetings.

“I have really positive feelings about it [the club],” junior Brooklyn Koesters, who is a member of the club, said. “It is definitely one of the most proud things I say I’m a part of.”

Meetings have mostly been about planning as the club is still sorting things out, but members are comfortable with each other and all are very open-minded.

“We’ve had a couple meetings so far,” Hickman said. “Some being just sitting and talking about experiences and it’s gone exactly how I wanted it and exactly how they wanted it.”

Depalma and Fritz like to sit back and guide direction in meetings. They take notes, assure productivity and create milestones to meet throughout the duration of the meetings.

“I just want to be a support for them to be able to advocate for themselves and for their fellow students,” Depalma said.

The grant is also a main topic of the latest gatherings. Another main focus in the club is what they’re going to do with such a large amount of money.

It will most likely be going towards QPR training, which is an educational program that teaches people the warning signs of what could be a suicide crisis along with how to respond to it.

Guest speakers are also something the club is looking to bring to the school. They want to find resources to help educate others and acknowledge those suffering.

“Sexual harassment and suicide are really sensitive topics,” Depalma said. “So to have students who are willing to talk openly about those things and how we can create solutions and protection I think is really brave work.”