Keep your chin up. Be strong. Look on the bright side. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you. Everything happens for a reason.
All of these are well-meaning responses to someone who is coping with a personal battle. However, sometimes those dealing with tough times need to see evidence that they are not alone.
Two Leander High School students started Amare Outreach for this reason, a non-profit anonymous organization that allows teenagers to share their problems.
The seniors, Jared Bouloy and Dana Pierce, launched Amare Outreach in the fall.
“I went through personal struggles at a young age and was still dealing with the aftermath of the abuse,” Pierce said. “That’s where the idea came from. It’s anonymous as there is a stigma behind asking for help.”
The idea started last February and it became a reality in July.
“We put together a website which serves as an anonymous forum for people to submit their stories, because many people who are survivors of mental illness and abuse will never share their stories,” Bouloy said. “Things like mental abuse thrive in silence.”
Pierce has seen the results of what they created in an up close and personal way.
“One girl took me to lunch and told me she had her suicide planned out and that reading the stories changed her mind,” Pierce said. “She said we were able to catch it in time and that she saw so much hope from the stories on the page.”
Amare Outreach has speakers who share their personal trials at different middle and high schools. During the forum, organizers also bring students’ anonymous questions to counselors for help.
The students want Amare Outreach to spread to schools around the world. They have already launched the program into two other states, Arizona and Pennsylvania. One of the program’s ambassadors is speaking at an Arizona school next
“We’ll never really know the extent to how much this is helping,” Pierce said. “It’s a catalyst for conversation.”
They’re scheduled to speak at Cedar Park High School in March and Canyon Ridge Middle School later this spring. They hope to carry on their efforts after high school.
“It’s the peer-based element that makes this so different and effective,” Bouloy said.