October 09, 2013 - By Ana Cordero
Review Special Writer
Lake Orion's Students Offering Support program or SOS was recognized by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners last week.
SOS is a program dedicated to bringing awareness about teen crises, breaking down myths about mental health issues and suicide and providing peer-to-peer support as well as resources.
Michael Gingell, Chairman of the Board, said the Board provides proclamations to individuals or groups who help make a difference in Oakland County. He said he first heard about SOS from George Miller, the Director of the Health and Human Services Department of Oakland County.
"(Miller) mentioned to me that he was beginning to work with Lake Orion High School on this program and from there I started doing a little more research," Gingell said. "I got educated and got to the point where we (Oakland County Board of Commissioners) wanted to bring them in and recognize them."
Teachers, counselors, parents, students and the Lake Orion Community Schools Superintendent, Marion Ginopolis attended the meeting.
Before presenting the group with the proclamation, Miller first spoke about the importance of doing something to prevent suicide.
"Everyone needs to keep in mind that suicide is really not a school problem, it's not an individual problem, it really is a public health problem," he said. "We have to address it as a community if we really want to resolve [it] and try to help people with that issue."
He praised SOS for its efforts in making a difference in the community.
Michelle Novak, a Lake Orion High School Counselor, agreed that SOS has not only made a difference in the school, but also in the community.
"Since we've started SOS, we've changed the climate of our community," Novak said. "Before, (students) would post on Facebook and Twitter about ending their lives, and kids and adults would sit back and let that happen. Nowadays, with our SOS efforts kids stand up."
For that same reason, the Board issued SOS members with the proclamation to honor their dedication and commitment to making a difference.
Corey Flanders, a senior at Lake Orion High School, and an SOS member said it felt nice getting recognized.
"I felt like our hard work really paid off," she said.
Superintendent Ginopolis agreed. She said she felt proud of the students' hard work.
"I was very excited (when we received the proclamation) because it's something we worked very hard on and I just feel that students got the recognition they deserved," Ginopolis said.
With almost 300 students participating in the program this year, she also said SOS has numerous goals for the year. Expanding to the middle schools, sharing the idea of the program with other school districts, providing refresher courses for the students and creating an outreach program called LO Connect for Lake Orion High School graduates ages 18 to 24 are all things the group hopes to accomplish.
Even though teachers and students praise Ginopolis for her efforts, she calls the students and the adult volunteers the real heroes.
"To see young people getting involved like this, wanting to help each other, speaks very loudly about our school district," Ginopolis said.