By Mikael Krummel

Sources of Strength. It’s a national trend, a growing movement finding recognition in secondary schools across the nation, around Oregon, and in several local high schools. Sheldon High is one of those schools.

The spotlight on Sheldon is due in large part to an impressive group of student peer leaders. Sources of Strength is not a club. Rather, it’s a class that typically attracts about 25 students per term. Sheldon boasts a core of more than 75 class-trained peer leaders. There’s talk of that roster eventually exceeding 10% of the school population.

Sources activities are geared toward pursuing solutions for teen emotional and mental health challenges. Nationally, Sources was founded on concerns about teen suicide and depression. Kate Tierney, a Sheldon faculty advisor and Sources mentor, shares those same concerns. And so did Avery Walkoviak, an award-winning Sheldon peer leader who last year established a weekly “SHS Sources” podcast available on Spotify. Today that podcast continues under new student leadership with a new title: “We Belong Podcast.”

“The podcast is run by the students,” says Tierney. “The episodes reflect whatever they think is relevant in their lives. They want to tell authentic stories about their struggles and how they cope. Those kinds of stories mirror the Sources mission: To be okay about not being okay!”

Peer leaders take on a variety of projects reflecting their commitment to the main focus of Sources. With the podcasts, students first discuss the potential content and themes in class. Their ideas are then passed on to a select broadcast team for refinement. Sheldon students at-large are invited to join as interviewees. Several of the podcast team serve as interviewers. Others provide narrative. A few compose episode descriptions for publication on the Spotify site.

As one of the student podcasters put matters: “The podcasts are kind of like conversations. They often start out with questions and evolve from there. It’s not so much like there’s a script. It’s nice not being so super strict. You’re just talking about how you feel. And how to handle those feelings.”

Search for “We Belong Podcast” in the Podcasts section to find this on Spotify.