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The City Journals

Changing lives one person at a time

Apr 11, 2018 09:54AM ● By Jet Burnham

Stacee Worthen is changing lives of students, colleagues and neighbors. (CHTV News)

Copper Hills High School Principal Todd Quarnberg said his No. 1 concern in education is suicide prevention and mental illness awareness. He knows many students are dealing with depression, loss and suicide in addition to worrying about grades and preparing for college.

“It’s unending,” he said. “For a counselor to be able to manage all that’s going on, it takes an exceptional counselor to do that. Stacee is the definition of exemplary.”

And for her exemplary work, Stacee Worthen has been nominated for a Life Changer of the Year Award. 

“You can see the breadth of what she does here—everything from suicide and mental illness to getting kids into college,” said Quarnberg. “She’s been able to think outside the box in the way she counsels.”

One unique way Worthen reaches students is through vlogs. To compete for attention with the students’ phones, she decided to create video blogs that students can access anytime, anywhere. The series of vlogs addresses topics such as managing anxiety and stress, suicide awareness and how to access counseling center resources.

“When I can’t meet with student, they have the option to watch the vlog,” Worthen said. 

She also uses the vlog to promote pillar values such as being a good person and being aware, respectful and grateful. These ideas are from a book, “Red Shoe Living,” by Lonnie Mayne. Worthen invited the author to speak to the student body and has worked to incorporate these ideas and attitudes into the Copper Hills culture.

Worthen believes it’s her job to help students to see how incredible they are.

“It’s really an amazing journey to help guide them and advocate for them,” said Worthen. “Every person has an individuality that makes them unique and special.” 

She encourages teens to learn from their mistakes and take ownership in their lives. Worthen brought the HOPE Squad to CHHS this year so students could address the issue of suicide prevention. 

“HOPE Squad is a way to empower students to create a community of teenagers who could provide support, friendship and leadership to their own peers,” Worthen said. “They are capable of creating something that is their own, that is unique, that is going to make a difference around them.”

 HOPE Squad members identify and reach out to students who need help, encouraging them to talk with a trained teacher or counselor. Worthen said the 60 Squad members can keep an eye on more kids than just eight counselors can. 

Quarnberg said students often will share their suicidal thoughts with a friend but ask them to not tell anyone.

“We’re training students to be proactive,” he said. “I think we’re changing the culture with students where they will tell someone.”

The HOPE Squad is inviting the community to participate in its Walk for Hope, which will start at 10 a.m. on April 28.

“It will bring a better awareness of suicide prevention and community resources and allow our community to really come together to help these kids who are struggling,” said Worthen. “We want to create a community of businesses and partnerships and resources for parents to be able to draw on.” 

Worthen believes everyone benefits from a supportive community. She lives just five minutes away from the school, so her students and their families are her neighbors.

 “Her day is never done,” said Quarnberg. “She really can’t go home from her work; her work goes with her.” 

Worthen said she loves to talk with students when she sees them at the grocery store or in restaurants; she truly cares about them.

Jennifer Ward, a teacher at CHHS, said Worthen cares enough to make time for everyone, whether it is a neighbor, a student or a co-worker.

“Stacee has made a personal difference in my own children’s lives as well as the lives of other students here at the school,” she said. “She is sympathetic to their needs without making them feel different or making it seem like she is pitying them.”

Ward, who lost her husband two years ago, said Worthen regularly checks on her and her kids.

“She will often just drop by my room with a treat and ask how my day is going,” said Ward. “Sometimes she notices I am tired, and she has a stash of diet coke, and she will send one down to my room. She does this for lots of teachers just to pick them up or make them feel special. She really is changing lives one at a time.”

Finalists for the Life Changer of the Year will be chosen this spring. Community members can show their support for Worthen by adding their comments of praise to the many already found at