In Cassie’s own words:
Peyton Heart Project Ambassador Essay: By Cassie Rodrique
My name is Cassie Rodrique, and I am currently in 10th grade. I am in the school marching band and indoor drumline, and I enjoy playing recreational softball. I have also spent 10 years in Girl Scouts, serving my community.
My life has recently been touched by the issues that The Peyton Heart Project supports. It is very important to me that communities all around the world are inspired to help with these matters.
One of my best friends has been directly affected by self-harm. At the time of their suffering, I was not as close with them as I am now. I had minimal classes with them, and we talked occasionally. I was not aware of what was going on in their life outside of school. As high school started, we became extremely close through extracurricular activities. I soon learned their history with self-harm and the reasons for their affliction upon themself. Their words made me realize how much they had been through, and how strong they had become. When I first learned about this part of their life, they were about six months clean. From that day, a lot of emotional trauma has been brought upon them, that of which stems from the original causes of their self-harm. I have made every effort possible to ensure that their life has as much positivity in it as possible. My friend is just over one year clean today. Through the experiences of caring for them and enforcing positivity into their life, I have learned a lot. I would love to help spread the message of the importance of strong and supportive friendship in times like these.
Another one of my very closest friends has personally gone through suicidal issues. A few months ago, they were in an extremely dark spot. Luckily, they came to me over social media to talk about it. They told me that they had already attempted to take their own life before they had come to me. After a very deep conversation, I recognized that this was a cry for help and decided I needed to get help for them. I contacted a family friend of ours who works at a suicide [prevention] hotline. From then on, things went downhill. I know how much of a burden it is to know a serious secret of someone’s, who does not want you telling anyone. I’ve learned from this experience that it is always better to be safe than sorry. My friend was very mad at me, but a few weeks later I learned that they had planned to take their life over the upcoming winter break. A couple months later they began to spiral down again, but this time, they did not go to me for help. They went to another one of my close friends. This time, it was even worse. My friends and I decided that the school counselors should get involved at this point. We risked our close friendship with them, but the risk of them taking their life was reduced greatly. After a hard few weeks, they are currently doing very well and healthily. They also see a counselor once every week. I have learned how much suicide can affect so many people, and that it is a major problem that needs awareness.
The same friend also suffers with their mental health. They suffer from depression inflicted anger issues. Knowing them for about two and a half years has exposed me to these serious problems that need to be expressed and acknowledged. Having your best friend seriously threaten you and your close friends is a very scary experience that I endured, but we learned how to deal with it through guidance. Positivity and love is something that they could have definitely used in these times.
I first heard about The Peyton Heart Project last year, when they came to my school for an assembly. I was moved by the power of the message that the speaker conveyed. Everyone that I spoke to afterwards absolutely loved the hearts that they gave out. At the time, I had no experience with someone who was suicidal, so I could not relate. However, I was still very compelled to become involved in some way. More recently, my Girl Scout troop participated in a meeting to help make the hearts. Mrs. Dille ran the event, and as she was speaking about her experiences and others’, I could understand everything that she said. I was incredibly moved by the project and I was driven to ask how I could get involved.
The Peyton Heart Project has become so important to me in just the past few days. I realized how these hearts and their messages could have helped my best friend greatly, and that people need to be aware of this amazing project. I have handed out countless hearts from the meeting where we helped make them, and each person I gave them to smiled and thanked me. The aspect of leaving them for people to find themselves is even better, because that sends a powerful message that everyone has someone who cares about them. This project really speaks to me because of my experiences with my friends and the sheer positivity and love that comes with it.
I would love to become an ambassador for this project for many reasons. My involvement with these serious issues has exposed me to the actuality of these problems. People do not understand how many people are suffering and could use a heart. As an ambassador, I would make efforts to get my community (Souderton, Harleysville) more involved. I was only vaguely familiar with this project from the assembly last year, before my Girl Scouts meeting. I want to make every kid in school aware and eager to spread the happiness. This project has really spoken to me on a personal level, and I know that I could make it touch many others as well.
With my involvement in the marching band and drumline, I am closely knit with about 90 high school students. I plan to hold gatherings of the marching band community to help make and scatter hearts. In addition, I am a member of the Key Club at school. As an upperclassman next year, I can suggest meetings for the club be dedicated to The Peyton Heart Project. This club could also be an outlet for the project to be communicated and advertised within the building. Lastly, in Girl Scouts, I would try to have some of our meetings spent making hearts! I hope to spread the message throughout various areas in my community and get as many people as I can involved in volunteering!