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Emilie Wipprecht

Semi Colon – a punctuation mark indicating a pause; when an author has the choice to end a sentence but inserts a semi colon instead, to keep the sentence going.

We see semi colons in everyday reading, from the newspaper, your face book news feed, texts messages, books, magazines, everywhere. But what if I were to tell you that semi colons represent more than just keeping a sentences going. What if I told you they helped keep lives going as well?

In the spring of 2013 Amy Bleuel of Wisconsin wanted to honor her father to whom she lost to suicide. She began to create the Semi Colon Project to symbolize the struggle of depression, anxiety, self- harm, and suicide. The project was set up in a way that people could support each other and recognize that no matter how terrible things may have been, they were able to continue on with the help of others. The project also represented a goal – to believe that your struggle is not the end, but a new beginning. As months past Amy continued to pursue helping others and spreading suicide awareness. It became clear that the project was no longer about one person, but millions of people that it began to inspire across the globe. Now, the project has made its way into a small town called Woodland Park.
Zachary; 17 year old student at Woodland Park High school chose to take his life on September 20th, 2015. This name has grown familiar throughout the community of Woodland Park since Zach left this earth and now, his name, story and legend remains in the hearts of 100’s across our small town. Zach was an extraordinary young man. He enjoyed listening to music, reading comic books, playing video games, and constantly bringing happiness to the lives of his friends and loved ones.
“We would jam to music for hours,” one of his best friends Demetre Alexander told me. “The main thing we would do though was talk about comic books, we would argue about who’s the better super hero. He loved that kind of stuff; he was always so full of life. When my grandma died he stayed by my side every day and every night to make sure I was okay. No matter what he did he always put his full effort into it, and just had fun. Our friend ship was like a match, shined bright and burned fast.”
Zach’s friend at the time of his death, Georgia Hine, gave me a little insight about Zach. “He was always there. There are few people in this would that no matter what out anyone else before themselves and he was one of them. He was such a kind hearted boy and that’s why I fell for him. He was the sweetest thing and I love how he treated other people. Even when he disagreed with someone he would never be mean. He had the kindest soul in our town and that is rare to find now a days.”
“He was so depressed but I never would have known.” Another one of his friends, Kassandra Cruz said “He always lifted my spirit up. I could never lift my own spirit up the way that he did. I couldn’t have gone through half the things I went through without him. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be without him in my life.”
“We were inseparable from day one,” Zach’s cousin Cydney Sewell speaks. “We literally spent our whole lives together. Normally cousins wouldn’t have been so close like us, but that people would mistake us for siblings or even a couple. I still think about him every day and miss him like crazy. I love you Zachary.”
Suicide and depression are generally very uncomfortable topics for some to openly speak about, therefore causes the ongoing issue of it. 30,000 people in the U.S alone die from suicide each year and the number one cause of suicide is untreated or buried depression. Talking about these problems could help millions of lives around the world and spreading awareness could start the process the world needs. Amy Bleuel believed in helping others through her own unfortunate tragedies and spreading knowledge across the world to mend
Ms. Woods speaks on the behalf of our community, school, and peak program. “Hello, I am a Para Educator at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park Colorado. I am involved specifically with our PEAK program, which is an Alternative Education Program here at the high school and here is our story; we are a small school, located in the shadow of Pikes Peak. We are a very close knit community with a population of approximately 7,200 people. Our high school has approximately 625 students. Since I began working here in 2009 we have experienced an unordinary amount of deaths. 10, if I remember correctly. Some has been through natural and accidental causes but 4 have been through suicide. Our most recent loss occurred in September 2015. This loss hit our PEAK Program very hard, as the student use to be a PEAK student. Our students were devastated; many are still recovering. I too was affected by this loss as I had known the student since her was five. Seeing the struggle of our students and knowing the importance of processing grief, I decided we needed a project that could help our students through this time. I got together with one of our students, Kassandra Cruz, who was very close to the student who took his life. Together we came up with a project that we thought could help raise awareness to mental health, depression, and suicide. Without Peak Production Class, we have made over 500 bracelets out of para-cord, and a leather placket with a semicolon burned into it. We are selling these bracelets for 4.00$ each or 3 for 10.00$. With each bracelet, we attach a card which talks about “Project Semicolon” and gives website information, as well as, the Suicide Prevention hotline and website information. Our goal was to raise awareness, bring informational material to our counseling department and possibly help out the families who were affected by suicide in our community.”
As unfortunate as Zach’s death may have been, I think it fair to say that the population of our town and his loved ones believe his death has helped 100’s of people become more aware of suicide and depression. The Semi Colon project has made its way into Woodland Park High School and has already begun to make an extraordinary difference. Our students and staff have started to become closer and more open about ongoing issues like depression and suicide. Students have begun to speak up about problems and issues they see every day in other peers. Friends and family members have developed better relationships and benefited from talking about their depression. The biggest success yet has been our art department and Peak Program Semi Colon Bracelet Project. Now, thanks to Patty Woods, and Kassandra Cruz the Semicolon Project Bracelets now rest on the majority of our student’s wrists and money raised has gone towards families that have lost a loved one to suicide.

Despite the series of unfortunate events, our community has grown closer each day Zach is not with us. The happening of death was a stab in the heart for most of us but in the end we were able to come out on top, grow closer and realize even though Zach is gone, his story will help 100’s understand; their stories aren’t over yet ;