Free your mind Aevidum teams up with Real Youth Ministry for the youth of Cocalico
By: LUCY RICCOMINI Review Staff, Staff Writer
Real Youth Ministry will host a dinner at Weaver’s Banquet Facility on March 21 and feature Joe Vulopas of Aevidum as its keynote speaker.
Real Youth Ministry is an organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Cocalico. Rod Redcay, founder of the organization has made it his mission to work with area organizations, community leaders, parents and businesses to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth. Redcay recently teamed up with Vulopas to form the group Momentum!, a faith-based group dedicated to helping its peers.
"The students worked with Joe Vulopas and myself to develop this group which is a faith-based leg to Aevidum," said Redcay.
The members of Momentum! recently challenged their classmates at Cocalico to perform random acts of kindness to one another. They posted responses the students had on a bulletin board in the cafeteria.
Redcay’s goal is to take Momentum! into other school districts who already have the Aevidum club, giving students ample support when they feel they need it.
Vulopas, a former Cocalico High School English teacher, and columnist for the Lancaster New Era, is the executive director of Aevidum, an organization that focuses on raising awareness of depression and suicide among teens. After the suicide of one of his students in 2003, Vulopas rallied along with some of his students to form Aevidum, which means "I’ve got your back."
"Contrary to what all the experts say was needed, most schools across the nation didn’t openly discuss depression," said Vulopas. Cocalico High School was one of the first to actively discuss these issues as Vulopas and his students decided to become proactive about awareness.
"(Students) need to know that there isn’t shame in getting help," continued Vulopas. "It’s also important to know that they can get help. They will feel better. They have to know that there is hope, and that there are tremendous resources available to help them, both in school and in the community."
Cocalico students Lauren Baxter and Ashley Smith founded the group. After talking with counselors, the eight students in the original club wanted fellow students to know that classmates had their back if they felt depressed or suicidal, that depression is a treatable illness, that there are distinct warning signs and that students can get help in the school and the community.
In 2012, the club was named a national organization and Vulopas is currently on sabbatical from teaching to focus on getting the message to other schools and universities about mental health issues.
"Aevidum is quickly spreading across the state and the nation," added Vulopas. "What started here is being implemented in schools everywhere. Our students have spoken at the top national conferences. They even appeared on Good Morning America. Last year, they even had a special meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid."
Vulopas also serves as the director of education of the Minding Your Mind Foundation, one of the nation’s premiere mental health education organizations and a supporter of Aevidum.
"Aevidum is an empowerment organization that stresses the importance of students being advocates for themselves and their friends," said Vulopas of the organization. "It isn’t just dealing with depression and suicide, it is dealing with all the issues facing students. We want all students to know that they matter and that there is no shame in getting help for themselves or for their friends, if needed."
If you or someone you know suffers from depression or suicidal thoughts, call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"One of Aevidum’s goals is that every person has that number saved as a contact in their phones," added Vulopas.
For more information on Aevidum visit aevidum.com. For more information on Real Youth Ministry, visit realym.org.
Tickets to the banquet are free and include a family-style meal, live music from local students and keynote speaker, Joe Vulopas. The event is open to the public and youth are encouraged to attend. For more information and to reserve a seat, call 368-7133. Weaver’s is located on the corner of route 272 and 897 in Adamstown. More AEVIDUM, page A10