First Lady Casey DeSantis announces expanded Hope for Healing website, expansion of Hope Ambassadors
St. Petersburg, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced an expanded Hope for Healing website that makes it easier for Floridians to access help for mental health and substance abuse. The new site is an aggregator of federal, state, local, private sector, faith-based and non-profit mental health resources, and is designed to be updated as additional resources are made available.
Since 2019, the Hope for Healing initiative has focused not only on helping Floridians find resources in challenging times through state and local partnerships that use evidence-based best practices, but on addressing the stigma that is all too often associated with seeking help. For more information on Hope for Healing, please visit www.hopeforhealingfl.com/.
First Lady Casey DeSantis also announced that an additional 100 high schools will receive $500 each to develop and launch Hope Ambassadors clubs during the 2021-2022 school year. The allocations are made possible by grant funds, which will be administered by Volunteer Florida through the Florida Department of Education.
First Lady Casey DeSantis first initiated Hope Ambassadors in December 2019, to create a setting where students can volunteer, mentor their peers and help foster kind and compassionate environments. In the pilot program, which began in the 2020-2021 school year, 25 schools started clubs, with more than 300 student participants.
Examples of club activities in the 2020-2021 school year include:
- Organizing a school-wide cleanup of the school grounds and facilitating discussions regarding how to have productive conversations with peers to promote collaboration and trust.
- Discussing difficult topics such as homelessness within the school and community, as well as navigating and asking for help with parental issues and confronting risks for substance abuse.
- Utilizing social media to post inspirational and uplifting quotes to encourage students to boost healthier conversations.
“I have had the honor of traveling the state, learning about mental health and substance abuse, and collaborating with state, local, non-profit, faith-based and private-sector partners to find meaningful ways to help Floridians,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “It is incredible to witness the way students and school personnel have turned the Hope Ambassadors concept into action, and I am overjoyed that we can encourage more students to serve their communities and develop leadership skills for a lifetime of service and success. I applaud these students for creating kind and compassionate environments in their schools and look forward to continued success as we welcome more clubs throughout our state.”
The clubs’ “seed funds” were made possible through generous donations made to the Florida Education Foundation, the Florida Department of Education’s direct support organization, for the purpose of contributing to the statewide Hope for Healing Initiative.
“We are immensely grateful for the First Lady’s proactive approach to focusing on the needs of Florida’s students and ensuring our school campuses are positive environments conducive to learning and improving student outcomes,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Students are our top priority, and we are committed to making continuous improvements and strengthening ongoing partnerships that enable them to reach their full potential to become great citizens. This initiative is a terrific example of that work, and we are dedicated to further enhancing school climates to benefit our students and their families.”
“Fostering volunteerism and mentorship is a key component of Volunteer Florida’s mission,” said Volunteer Florida’s Chief Executive Officer Corey Simon. “We are honored to have a role in this outstanding initiative, and we extend our sincere gratitude to First Lady DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran for their leadership on the pilot program and dedication to expansion. We are looking forward to working with FDOE to ensure the additional schools are prepared to offer this exciting opportunity to their students for the start of the new school year.”
The updated Hope for Healing website includes resources from several state agencies, including the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health.
Hope Ambassadors is a critical component of Hope for Healing. To learn more about Hope Ambassadors, please visit www.fldoe.org/hopeambassadors/.