Tolleson High
Students from across Arizona participating in the Messages of Hope Paper Chain competition hosted by Teen Lifeline in an effort to spread awareness for teen mental health. (Submitted)

Tolleson High School has been awarded $1,000 from Teen Lifeline for winning the nonprofit’s Messages of Hope Paper Chain contest. 

During the event, Valley schools competed to make the longest chain of handwritten paper notes to start the conversation of teen mental health and spread hope to Arizona’s adolescents. 

“I think what’s cool about suicide prevention is that it’s a lot of small things,” said Morgan Hines, Teen Lifeline prevention coordinator. 

“It’s a lot of really just building each other up and creating that sense of connection and community within our state and within our schools. This idea of these paper chains of hope, really were meant to represent that.”

The statewide Messages of Hope contest started in 2019, allowing students to support their classmates and engage the student body in a different way. 

Teen Lifeline is an Arizona-based organization, whose mission is to prevent teen suicide by encouraging youth to talk about the difficult conversations regarding mental health and inspiring a positive future for the adolescent community. 

Teen Lifeline kicks off the contest by inviting schools to participate. The students then take control of the contest. They take colored pieces of paper and write inspiring or hopeful messages to their classmates. The messages don’t have to be to any one person in specific, more to the effect of a positive message. “We love you,” You’re not alone,” “You can do this,” “You’re a fighter,” are examples of messages.

“It’s amazing,” Hines said. “I think these kids, they are capable of so much, as they’re really capable of, and so good at supporting each other and supporting their peers. And that’s really what Teen Lifeline is all about, giving kids these tools to be able to help each other.”

In years prior, the support for the contest and the lengths of the chains of hope have grown steadily. In the inaugural year, Teen Lifeline created a chain that wrapped around the state capitol building. 

Tolleson High School topped the 2022 contest, creating a Chain of Hope spanning 2,677 links, or just under two football fields. 

The $1,000 prize money will go toward building a commemorative statue on the Tolleson High School campus.

“It’s just amazing to see how invested they are and how excited they get about doing something that honestly is small,” Hines said. “It’s a small act. It’s a small thing to write a message of hope on a piece of paper. But when you see all of these people doing it together, all the people in this one community have come together to do that, that’s when you can tell it’s making a big impact.

“It’s a big ripple effect. And these kids can look back on these messages and know that someone is there for them and someone cares. And that’s all we wanted was for the kids to feel supported and to feel less alone.”