Yanahlea Robinson described hope as a burden both light and heavy.
Before the first candle was lit and the Children's Memorial Flag unfurled at the fairgrounds on Monday, the Sunset High School senior elaborated on the dual nature of hope in her poem "Hope is a Feather" after speaking about the struggle with suicidal thoughts her own mother went through.
When her mother opened up about her past in an abusive home, Robinson said it made her view the world differently. She came to admire her parent's strength and confidence and realized she wanted to help other students struggling with similar problems.
"Knowing that such a thing that's very dark happens in our own community, I wanted to be a part of changing that," Robinson said. "Especially for youth that may not have a confidence level that I do myself."
Robinson said one of her goals was to bring the Sources of Strength program to Del Norte High School in the hopes of reaching a larger group of teens.
Robinson recited her poem at the Child Abuse Prevention Council's annual candlelight vigil and flag-raising ceremony. The ceremony commemorates April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and honors children who have been injured or lost through abuse or neglect.
Though the vigil seeks to remember the past and bring awareness to the present, it was the future that keynote speaker Kelly Troyna spoke of when she introduced the community to Sunset High School's Sources of Strength peer leadership program.
An advisor of the program, Troyna said she has witnessed students take healthy risks and leave their comfort zones as they address suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse. Sunset High School students are divided into five advisory classes, working with peer leaders to help them find "acceptable ways to deal with their problems," Troyna said.
"When we began last spring, 16 percent of our student body served as enthusiastic peer leaders," she said, adding that for teenagers, social development, peer acceptance and personal identity are part of growing up. "One year later 38 percent of our student body is taking on leadership roles and this increased level of student leadership ensures every single student on Sunset High School's campus feels connected to positive friends (and) caring adults at a school where they feel like they belong."
Sunset High School's peer leaders are also working to train adults in Del Norte Unified School District's student support services department and is even working to bring the Sources of Strength program to its middle-schoolers, Troyna said.
Before raising the flag to honor "every young life lost too soon," Troyna encouraged the community to consider what opportunities are available to help local youth "achieve goals beyond their expectations."
Following the vigil, there was a moment of silence while the Del Norte Sheriff's Explorers Post 911 raised the Children's Memorial Flag. The flag displays five blue paper doll figures of children holding hands. A six figure is a white chalk outline to symbolize the thousands of children lost due to violence.
The flag will be up during the month of April at 28 different locations throughout Del Norte County including at all the schools.
Other events held in conjunction with Child Abuse Prevention Month include the Youth and Family Fair, which will take place from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds.
A roundtable discussion, "Celebrating Resilience" will be held 10 a.m. April 13 at the Crescent City Cultural Center. According to First 5 Del Norte Executive Director Angela Glore, the discussion will feature international inspirational speaker Giovan Bazan, who draws on his experience as a foster youth. It will touch on the importance of resilience in battling the effects of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, and will also honor two local organizations who have "put resilience into practice to make a big difference in people's lives."
The roundtable discussion will open with a brunch at 9:30 a.m. To register for the event, visit https://bit.ly/2HTEawr .
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .