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Pender High to launch HOPE Squad
“It takes an entire village to raise a child. It takes an entire community to save one.”


These words were met with nods of agreement as Dr. Gregory Hudnall spoke to parents, students, church leaders, law enforcement officials, emergency responders, mental health and healthcare professionals, school administrators, and other community members Aug. 8 at Pender High School.


“We are so pleased to see the community support of this school-wide initiative,” said Dr. Terri Cobb, Superintendent of Pender County Schools. “We look forward to supporting Pender High as they develop a model program that can be shared with the entire district.”


Hudnall, a former high school principal, student service director and associate superintendent in Utah, has more than 20 years of experience in suicide prevention. He shared his experiences as a first responder and consultant to dozens of suicides, reminding community members that while suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 15-14, it is also preventable.


Enter the HOPE Squad, a group of students identified by their fellow classmates and trained to identify warning signs and provide friendship to at-risk peers, as well as report signs to an adult.


“We are often scared to start the conversation about suicide because we are worried that by talking about it, we may give someone the idea to self-harm,” said Pender High Principal Chris Madden. “But our students are already talking about it. By starting a community dialogue and developing an understanding of the warning signs, we can save lives.”


Pender High School will pilot the Hope Squad curriculum this year and plans to also hold suicide prevention trainings for the community.


For more information about HOPE Squad, visit