Aug. 31—Teachers and students competed in a dance-off and sang together during an assembly focused on raising mental health awareness.
Jordan Miller, founder of Generation Why, told McAlester Public Schools middle school students during the Wednesday assembly they bring unity to their community if they work to prevent bullying and raise mental health awareness.
"Know your why, change your perspective, and change your community," Miller told the students.
Miller encouraged students to find their purpose and change their perspective to help others.
Generation Why was established as a 501(c)(3) in 2017 after a rise in deaths by suicide across Oklahoma City. The group of creative artists combines talents in dance, rap, motivational speaking and more to in productions focused anti-bullying initiatives and growing mental health awareness.
Miller told attendees he wanted to start the group after struggling with guilt and emotional trauma following a high school friend's death.
"I could've taken 30 seconds out of my day to actually acknowledge one of my friends was reaching out to me," he told the students.
"That's something that I wish I did," he added.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Oklahoma is a top 10 state in highest suicide death rates at 21.9 per 100,000 total population.
Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Oklahoma, nearly tripling the state's homicide death rate of nine per 100,000, per the CDC.
Miller said he felt the need to help raise mental health awareness and stifle bullying through a fun, engaging program.
He told students they share common experiences and everyone has their purpose. Miller said if people acknowledge each other and treat each other with respect, the world become more unified.
Generation Why has now reached thousands of students at more than 100 schools with assemblies offering students a message of hope and purpose.
Miller challenged students Wednesday to take 30 seconds to acknowledge people.
"Look them in the eye, know they are alive, they're human," Miller said. "They need to be loved, you need to be loved."
Wednesday's program started with an emcee leading students in sing-alongs to popular songs and the team performing dance routines to pop music as students cheered.
Julien Hyacinthe, a GNWY motivational speaker, then told students his childhood presented challenges to his emotional safety and encouraged students to reach out to teachers if they faced similar struggles.
He said students should reach out to teachers and mentors instead of keeping emotions bottled in so they can keep dreaming and working to reach their goals in life.
Hyacinthe said a mentor helped him realize things that weighed him down so he could find his purpose.
"Because I listened to that and allowed him to invest in me positive attributes and affirmations, I was able to see more clearly as time went on," Hyacinthe said.
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