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Clackamas Middle College first in Clackamas County to host suicide prevention program

COURTESY PHOTO - Kora Vanek with MVP, Laurie Shepherd with Clackamas Sunrise Rotary, Ryan Price with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Principal Brian Sien celebrate the introduction of curriculum at Clackamas Middle College.Clackamas Sunrise Rotary partnered with the Mikenna Vanek Project (MVP) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to help promote More Than Sad events in local schools.

Clackamas Middle College was the first school in Clackamas County to present the program discussing depression awareness, resources available, suicide statistics and prevention options.

MVP is a local nonprofit founded in memory of a CMC graduate who took her life in February 2018 after struggling with depression in high school and college.

Kora Vanek founded the Gladstone-based nonprofit in her daughter's name with a goal to promote healthy conversations and prevention surrounding the stigma of suicide.

The youth suicide rate in Oregon has increased dramatically this decade, state data shows. In 2010, about seven in every 100,000 Oregonians between the ages of 10 and 24 died by suicide. By 2017, that rate virtually doubled.

Vanek saw the video advertising the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention educational materials, and sent out a blanket email to schools in the area. She pointed out that Adi's Act, which requires school districts to adopt a policy on student suicide prevention by the next school year, was recently passed by the state legislature.

"The first school that just jumped on it was the school that my daughter went to," Vanek said.

When Vanek walked in to support the Oct. 25 presentation, she "had lots of nostalgic feelings" and wasn't sure her emotions would allow her to talk. But CMC Principal Brian Sien called her to the podium.

COURTESY PHOTO - Sara Zusman, a Central City Concern wellness coach at Town Center Courtyard, a low-income housing development near the Clackamas Town Center, presents new coats to young local residents, courtesy of Clackamas Sunrise Rotary."At that point I just stood up, and in Mikenna's honor, I gave a little icebreaker," Vanek said.

Vanek told a story of how Mikenna was set to be named CMC valedictorian, but in the 11th hour didn't get the honor.

"She struggled with major depression, but she would like you to know that she should have been valedictorian," Vanek said of her daughter.

Since suicide can affect an outspoken valedictorian candidate, stereotypes need to be broken about depression only striking kids who have trouble in school.

"If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, someone needs to speak up, and you can't wait for it to be someone else," she said.

Clackamas Sunrise Rotary's annual Coats for Kids drive delivered its first batch and is hoping to raise funds for additional coats over the next few weeks. Club members also just completed their annual dictionary/thesaurus drive as well, in which many of the district's third graders received their first personal book. For more information about the project, visit rotarycoatsforkids.com.

For more information about the program from AFSP that MVP is trying to help get into local high schools with Rotary grant money, visit afsp.org/our-work/education/more-than-sad.


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