Peer Leader Spotlight: Kennedy Jackson

We spoke with Penfield High School junior, Kennedy Jackson.

What gets you excited about Sources of Strength?

Our meetings are fun! We always start with a game. I really like that Sources of Strength uses fun, but then we can still come together as a team to get things done.

How have you been personally impacted by Sources of Strength?

I have become a lot more positive. I get stressed out very easily, so I try to use pieces of the wheel to remind myself of my strengths, and then I can talk to certain people or do certain activities to make myself feel better. I know I can talk to my Adult Advisors about anything!

How have you been able to use Sources of Strength in other areas of your life.

I am in seven other clubs and do track. A lot of the clubs mesh together with others so I am able to take pieces from Sources of Strength and use it in all of them. Sources of Strength and track work really well together for me. When there is an issue on the team I can use what I’ve learned in Sources if Strength to handle it better.

Has your school culture changed?

Since my freshman year our school is a lot more positive now! We have daily announcements with a positive quote for the day from Sources of Strength read from a Peer Leader. We also have posters of the wheel all over school. They are in every classroom, the counseling rooms, the gym, the hallways, the commons, the lunchroom…everywhere! It’s a great reminder of how you can use your strengths.

What are a few of your favorite campaigns your school has done?

I like our campaign right now, “I Am Stronger.” Upper classmen are giving advice to under classmen by writing stories about “If we knew then what we know now,” and how a piece of the wheel has helped us in high school. I wrote about healthy activities and how supportive the track team has been for one another.  

We have a “Great Wall of Kindness” up where students can pick a random act of kindness card from a wall. Some examples were, open the door for someone, give someone a compliment, bring someone flowers, etc. Then when a student has finished a random act the card can go back on the wall for someone else to use. I try to do one every week. It makes me feel good about myself and I hope that I can make someone else smile and have a better day.

We also made a big wheel in the lunchroom where kids could come spin the wheel and whatever strength it landed on they gave an example of how they use that piece of the wheel or how they could make it stronger. A ton of people did it! We also gave them candy after : )

What’s your favorite activity right now?

Running outside! It helps release any pent up energy and feelings.

End of the Year Celebration Guide

It’s almost the end of the year! It always sneaks up sooner than expected. We are excited to see so many of the great campaigns you have been running at your schools. As the school year comes to a close, we want to remind you of the importance of an end of the year celebration.

Setting aside time to thank Peer Leaders for their hard work and commitment is not only important for remembering our mission, but also for keeping up numbers as you go into your next year. Students that feel recognized and supported are far more likely to remain involved in the Sources of Strength program going forward.

This celebration does not have to be big or expensive. Here are some simple ideas that could help make your Sources of Strength team feel seen and appreciated:

This celebration can take many forms. Here are some key things to keep in mind however you decide to celebrate:

  • Remember to touch both minds and hearts, share stories of impact, strength, and connection and point to numbers and reach of your campaigns over the course of the year. Read records that you have kept from efforts throughout your time together. Page 12 of the Adult Field Guide (also found online) is a great way to help Peer Leaders understand the important impact they have had on their school.
  • Provide students with Award Certificates/Patches/Plaques recognizing their leadership and the important role they play as a peer leader.
  • Host a celebration event and invite parents, friends, teachers etc to join in the recognition and celebration. This can be a great opportunity to communicate the mission and impact of your Sources of Strength team to others and students will love being honored in front of their friends and families.
  • Allow Peer Leaders and Adult Advisors to briefly share what the group has meant to them this year.

Here are some ideas for planning a celebration:

  • Serve cake and play some group games like Thumper and Walk Around Cool.
  • Show a slideshow of your group’s time together throughout the year.
  • Create silly or fun awards for members of your team like, “Most Likely to Get Way too Into Rock Paper Scissors” or, “Chief Problem Solver”.
  • Have a pot-luck and a games tournament.
  • End of the year water balloon fight on the quad? Yes, please!

We would love to see your end of the year celebrations. Tag #sourcesofstrength on social media or email us at As always, feel free to contact any of the Sources team members for more ideas or to answer questions you might have. Good luck!

Featured Event: Parent Night

Sources of Strength Parent Night

1.5 hour evening event

Hosted as a joint event between Gunn High School and Paly High School in Palo Alto, CA.

The event focused on how parents, educators and students can work together at home and in our schools to prevent the epidemics of bullying, addiction and suicide.

The evening consisted of an opening introduction which included Gunn and Paly educators providing an overview of the Sources of Strength program.

Dr. Shashank Joshi, Stanford Associate Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, also shared the research behind Sources of Strength, which shows that creating a preventive culture in our community that fosters an epidemic of Hope, Help and Strength is the most effective form of suicide prevention.

Parents then broke out into student-led sessions focused on one of four strengths: Family Support, Spirituality, Healthy Activities and Mental Health/Medical Access.

In these 8- to 10-minute sessions, two student presenters explained the strength, shared with attendees their own experience, and provided a space for conversations about what we all struggle with in life and where we find the strength to overcome our challenges.

Parents had the opportunity to rotate through each strength and hear different experiences. The evening wrapped up with a choral reading of the mission statement and the chance for parents to complete a survey to give feedback.

Between 40 and 50 parents attended the event, and 16 Gunn and Paly student leaders were involved.

Parents were pleased with the event, especially with learning about different strengths on the wheel and about hearing student perspectives.

Key to the success of the Sources of Strength program is to develop awareness and a shared vocabulary at home and in our community so that families can support the work we are doing in our schools.