Vera Vaz

by Casey Ritenour 

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Nevadans age 12-19. Nevada also ranks fifty-first in mental health services and availability in the country. With statistics as frightening as these and a lack of resources especially pronounced in rural Nevada, it is up to our schools and our community to step in and begin the conversation regarding suicide and prevention.

In the fall of 2019, Churchill County High School art teacher Jaime Shafer will launch the #WhyYouMatter School and Community Campaign. #WhyYouMatter is a national campaign that was started by teachers at Chelsea High School in Michigan after three traumatic losses among the student body. In an effort to remind their student body that they each bring something valuable to their school and community, they launched the #WhyYouMatter project.

Shafer learned about their project at the National Art Education Association convention in Boston this past March. After returning from the NAEA convention, Shafer made an appointment to speak with school superintendent Dr. Summer Stephens about the idea. Dr. Stephens and the school board supported the project, and Shafer has been working on sharing the idea and raising funds to make the project happen here in Fallon.

The project asks students to reflect on one simple question: Why do I matter? The campaign is an effort to promote positive self image and to remind students that they each bring something valuable to their families and community. Each participant will be asked to write a single “I matter because” statement. Then s/he will be invited to be photographed with the statement. The images will be printed on 11 x 17 inch cardstock and will line the halls of the school.

Samantha Frost

Allison Frost

Melanie Plasse

Shafer wants to expand the campaign into the community. The Churchill Library Association was the first community organization to offer financial support, as well as, the use of the Churchill County Library to host a community exhibit and multiple photography sessions. Currently, there will be a photography session on October 18th from 1-4 PM. At that time, community members may drop in and be photographed with their I matter statement. The first exhibit is scheduled for January 2020 and will feature images from the high school and the community.

Word is spreading about the project as Shafer continues to go out into the community and share the idea. She is hoping to bring in motivational speaker Mike Smith in March of 2020 if she can raise enough funds. Mike Smith visited Fallon in 2015 and was very well received by the students of CCHS.

CCHS teachers and students are also offering their support. The goal of the project to is photograph every student at the high school. If you are interested in making a contribution to the #WhyYouMatter Campaign, please contact Jaime Shafer at​.



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