Hinsdale Central students meet anti-suicide project creator
Hinsdale Central Suicide Prevention Awareness Network Club student members Melissa Mooney (from left), Talia Just and Grayson Ricketts, along with faculty sponsor Erin Fratella, meet with Dan Savage. | Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 4, 2012 10:44AM
Three students from Hinsdale Central’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Network Club never expected to hand their $300 donation for the It Gets Better Project directly to the man who created it.
But that’s just what happened Sunday when senior Talia Just, junior Grayson Ricketts and freshman Melissa Mooney, along with faculty club sponsors Erin Fratella and Mike McMahon, got to meet Dan Savage prior to his lecture at Elmhurst College.
It Gets Better was created to show young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach — if they can just get through their teen years, according to the project’s website, www.itgetsbetter.org.
Savage, a syndicated columnist and author, created a YouTube video with his partner, Terry Miller, in September 2010, in response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school.
During a 15-minute meeting, Savage told the Central students learning of the suicide of a gay person provided the spark for action.
“I just couldn’t help but think about how I wish I would have had five minutes to talk to him first,” Savage said.
Savage said he never expected the reactions and responses that resulted.
The It Gets Better Project has inspired more than 40,000 user-created videos that have been viewed more than 40 million times. The project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities.
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actors Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell and Matthew Morrison; music stars Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, and Ke$ha, and the staffs of The Gap, Google, Facebook and Pixar, also have created videos.
Savage has been under fire lately for comments he made April 13 at the Journalism Over the Edge/National Scholastic Press Association National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle. He criticized interpretations of the Bible as being anti-Gay, and then made comments at some students who walked out of the speech. Savage has since apologized for the comments.
Members of the Central club said they had not heard of that controversy. While the SPAN club is not focused on the LGBT community, involved students liked the message sent out by The It Gets Better Project.
“We think this message can be universal,” said Just, president of the club. “It’s important for people to realize that no how bad things seem, it won’t last forever. It’s been so taboo to talk about suicide. One of our goals is to make it known that it’s OK to talk about it.”
Fratella said the club has existed at Central for five years.
“The students involved learn about the signs of suicide because we want to prevent it,” she said.
Just said she was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet Savage and give him the money raised via sales of concessions at a teacher-student basketball game and of Jamba Juice to students at Central.
Ricketts said he got involved because his older sister, Jenna, is a former president.
“I thought the club did a lot of good things,” he said.
Mooney’s sister, Emily, is a Central senior who also is involved in SPAN.
“I wanted to get involved, too,” Mooney said. “I don’t like the idea of someone being so sad that they decide to end their life.”