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Sonia Sabrowsky and Madison Sutton, both seniors in Barrett Honors College, operate under the motto “people need people.”
It is a credo they have taken to heart when establishing the Home Base Initiative that focuses on addressing suicidality and promoting mental health among adolescents in Maricopa County schools.
Sabrowsky a double major in biochemistry and psychology, and Sutton, a double major in global studies and psychological sciences, are set to graduate in May 2019. They started the Home Base Initiative this year.
Both attended the Clinton Global Initiative University held last month in Chicago, Ill.. More than 1,000 student leaders attended this year’s CGI U and made commitments to action in five focus areas, including education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health.
While there, Sabrowsky and Sutton reaffirmed their commitment to Home Base Initiative, a community-based peer support project aimed at reducing feelings of isolation and the rate of suicidality among young people in Arizona.
Through this commitment, they will work in partnership with the Courage Lab and Tillman Scholars at Arizona State University, as well as the Maricopa County School District, to pilot an evidenced-based program at one Mesa high school for 10 months. They hope to expand the program into all high schools in the district.
“We created Home Base Initiative to address the social risk factors of teen suicide. These include, but of course are not limited to, feelings of burdensomeness and isolation, as well as the lack of a tightly-networked school community,” Sabrowsky said.
A few weeks ago, they hosted Wellness Week at a local high school, with different events each day to promote positive mental well-being, including outdoor yoga at sunset.
“By working with the high school students to organize these events, we have laid the groundwork to begin a pilot program of our peer-support group next semester,” Sabrowsky said, explaining that the group will consist of around 20 students who will be encouraged to develop strong bonds with each other through activities and discussions.
“We live and work by the motto, "people need people." Through this peer-support group, we aim to provide opportunities for the students involved to form healthy, tight-knit social networks and realize the benefits of giving and receiving social support,” she added.
Sabrowsky said it was “pretty exciting and inspiring” to attend CGI U, where they heard former U.S. President Bill Clinton speak and networked with like-minded and socially-engaged students.
“We have interacted with some amazing student leaders here at ASU, but it was a great experience being able to branch out and meet other forward-thinking students from around the country. Neither of us had ever been to Chicago before either, so the location of the conference gave us an opportunity to explore a new city and gain a firsthand appreciation for some of the local sights,” she said.
Sabrowsky and Sutton are still trying to determine their post-graduation paths, but one thing is certain; they will continue to find ways to be involved and serve the community.
“Although we both have a wide variety of interests, supporting people has always been, and will always be our top priority. CGI U was a wonderful opportunity to remember just how diverse we are as a global community, and the kind of personal support we need varies across individuals. But, no matter the differences in our backgrounds or interests, we all want to be heard, valued, and cared about. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is simply be there for other people, and this is something we can do regardless of the directions life takes us,” Sabrowsky said.
Two other Barrett students also attended CGI U. Justin Haywood a sophomore majoring in political science, and Natalie Rudolph, a senior majoring in elementary education, committed to providing a college preparedness and mentoring program for aspiring Latina students in Phoenix called Latinas Leading the Way.
They are working with Phoenix Collegiate Academy, a high school where 92 percent of students are Hispanic. Mentors will provide college teasing, admissions, scholarship application, and resume writing assistance. The program objectives are to increase the number of Latina students admitted to and attending college, and to decrease college dropout rates among Latino students.
Partners in the program include the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, ASU Hispanic Business Student Association, and the ASU National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations.