Students know they have a friend at Cocalico High School. And at Ephrata. And McCaskey. And Pequea Valley. And many other schools in Lancaster County and throughout Pennsylvania, thanks to members of Aevidum.
About 125 Aevidum club members from a dozen local school districts got together on Saturday, April 5, for a "2014 Aevidum Rally" at Cocalico High School in Denver, where the Aevidum movement began over 10 years ago.
Club adviser Joe Vulopas said there is a chapter in every school district in Lancaster County that has expressed an interest in the program.
The first hour of Saturday's Rally was spent on registration and getting to know each other. After gathering in the auditorium, students broke into groups to attend workshops of their choice —photography, writing, music and other creative interests.
Supper in the cafeteria was followed by a 30-minute video on mental illness. Later, there was plenty of free time to exchange ideas while enjoying music, games and other activities.
Vulopas has been the adviser to the Cocalico group since 2003, when it formed after the suicide of a student. Membership has grown to more than 100 students at Cocalico, all offering a smile and a helping hand to other students.
Several Cocalico students shared their take on Aevidum.
Kylee Kidwell said, "Our main goal is to let others know you're there, and by doing that we spread the message of hope and create unity through positive words. It's to let others know you have their back."
"It's not our job to counsel," said Sam Marino. "We're not professionals. It's our job to let everyone know it's OK to get help, to admit something's wrong."
"It's not just words," said Megan Deam. "You want to be there for people. If someone is sitting alone in the lunchroom, you invite them to your table."
With the catch phrase, "I've Got Your Back," Aevidum is now national, with about 50 chapters in elementary, middle and high schools and colleges across the nation.
"Our goal is to connect all clubs as the organization continues to grow," Vulopas said. "Our plan is to keep students connected with each other."
"It is just remarkable where we are today and where we are going."