During fall 2018, a small group of Lee’s Summit North High School students came together with one goal — to help others and make a positive difference following the loss of two classmates to suicide. The 10 students went above and beyond with this goal, organizing a spring concert that raised $8,000 to assist with suicide prevention while increasing awareness of mental health issues.

“It is easy to feel helpless in the kind of situation we had in the fall and to be able to throw ourselves into this project helped,” said Emily Gerber, one of the students organizing the fundraising event. “It was healing for us, and we felt we made an impact.”

Emily added that everyone approached by the the small group of students was 100-percent behind the concert fundraiser and the awareness effort. “It was very encouraging to see that the tides are turning in terms of attitude toward mental illness and being able to de-stigmatize it.”

Several LSNHS students visited ReDiscover to turn over the $8,000 raised on April 17. Pictured are (from left) Norma Kelley, Bryan Gourley, Ali Schnakenberg and Micaela Griffin, Kirsti Millar and Lauren Moyer, all of ReDiscover; LSNHS students Emily Gerber, Mia Hamaker, Sophia Gerling, Evy Tanner; and LSN teacher Joe Keeney.

The $8,000 raised through the March 16 concert, called the LSNHS Music Department Spring Showcase, will go toward ReDiscover’s Zero Youth Suicide Team, which formed approximately 18 months ago. The grant-funded team will use the school’s donation to assist with prevention expenses not funded through the grant. The team five ReDiscover staff members has helped more than 300 individuals facing mental health issues since it formed.

“It is so moving to know that others care as much about this work as we do and especially to see how much the youth care,” said Kirsti Millar, ReDiscover suicide prevention liaison.

The Zero Youth Suicide Team attended the March fundraiser and praised the event as well as the music numbers, which were chosen based on their ability to uplift and inspire others.

“The students wanted music that celebrated life,” said Joe Keeney, Lee’s Summit North orchestra teacher who also assisted the students with the concert.
The 10 students organizing the Spring Showcase are all in Mr. Keeney’s orchestra class, and he added that he was impressed by their ability to pull the event together in just a few months.

“The students proposed the idea, hosted the auditions for talent, went out to businesses and got more than $4,000 in sponsorships, organized the concert order, recruited volunteers,” he said. “They really did it all.”

More than 40 acts auditioned for the concert, and the requirement for each performance was that it be inspiring and fun. Performers, all LSNHS students, included the school’s Step Team, Jazz Band, Women’s Choir and Crimson Camarata as well as a string quartet, rock band, hula dancer and several individual singers.

“I was anxious at first,” said student Sophia Gerling. “But there was such a good turnout from our performers and remarkable support from our community.”
The team of students organizing the concert included Emily Gerber, Sophia Gerling, Evy Tanner. Mia Hamaker, Julia Reece, Johnalia Hall, Anna Donaldson, Zakiyyah Winston, Britney Lewis and Sabra Hasek. Although many are graduating this spring, they are already recruiting younger classmates to carry on and ensure that the concert and the commitment to suicide prevention will continue each year.