As many of you know, September is Suicide Awareness month. Back in August, a few RDs and I came together and we discussed what we could do about it! After some thought, we decided on hosting a ‘Wear Yellow Day’ and a candlelight vigil for suicide awareness.
Today, I am writing about the planning process behind the event, some things that I learned, and watching a community come together really solidified my choice in pursuing Student Affairs.
‘Wear Yellow Day’ was the first campus wide program I had ever helped plan. After reflecting on how the event went, I have realized that the planning stage is probably the most important stage of the entire process. There are so many details that you need to work out so that the event is successful! Here is our list of things we needed to accomplish when we planned our Candlelight Vigil:
- The Basic Details: When, Where, How, Why? What departments should we contact? How could we get students involved?
- Advertisements: We needed flyers for the event, photos for Digital Signage across campus, and posters made for the lobbies of buildings. We decided that having a variety of different advertisements in different sizes would attract a lot of students.
- The Event: What did we want to do at the event? What would the order of events be? What student population were we targeting? Did we want candles or glow sticks? Who was going to speak?
- Triggers: Talking about suicide prevention would undoubtedly trigger some students. So, we needed to be conscious of our students’ needs.
- Budgeting: When planning a campus wide program, we also had to consider what we could reasonably do on our budget. Estimating supply cost was key!
The week before the event, we put up flyers and talked to the RAs on how we could make this event big! The RAs decided that they would work on passive program options for their residents to encourage them to come and they would decorate the lobbies in yellow. One of the RDs strung together the Suicide Prevention Cards and the glow sticks, which we decided to use over candles because of safety reasons and since glow sticks are cheaper to buy in bulk. We lined up two speakers (The Spiritual Center & The Counseling Center) and prepared the opening ceremony when students would break their glow sticks and let light shine from them.
With all events, you occasionally hit road blocks. We had a few student groups lined up to perform: the dance troupe and a choir! But both groups backed out on the last minute, so we had to quickly come up with some alternatives. We got speakers from IT and we played some instrumental music instead. It was important that we made the event positive and uplifting, so all of our speakers focused on how even in dark places light can always be found and what to do if you know someone is struggling.
We had over 75 people come to this event, which was beyond touching. I was the opening speaker and I cannot even begin to explain to you the chills that ran through me when I said “please bend your glow stick if you have felt, seen, or experienced the repercussions of suicide on your life. You can bend your glow stick for yourself, a friend/family member, a fellow classmate, a celebrity… you can break your glow stick for someone who you know or who you don’t know.” When I looked up from the podium, I saw every attendee break their glow stick and suddenly what was once a dim amphitheater was now filled with light.
It was moving to be a part of such a great experience and exciting to know my first campus wide program was a success! We touched 75 students lives that night and to me that solidifies my choice to join the Student Affairs world.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Alexandria, Doug, Emily, and Alexander, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.