An Open Letter To The Geneva Community

Dear  Geneva

I am a current sophomore at GHS and I write this open letter because I feel the need to speak out about what I feel is an issue that is not seeing the amount of attention it should be. 

However, before I start I would like to explain that I hold no anonymosity toward GHS or the faculty there. In fact I am incredibly appreciative of the consistent hard work and sacrifice they make to provide students like me with one of the highest quality educations possible. 

They almost always are amazing at spotting issues in the student body and taking care of them immediately before they become an epidemic. However this year I feel like the ball was dropped on one of the most tragic instances to happen at GHS. 

Over the summer GHS and the entire Geneva Community lost someone great. His name was Josh Sweet. Josh took his own life over the summer a little bit before the school year started. 

Josh was an incredible person and I knew Josh as a great student, an active member in the community and a fantastic Lacrosse player. Josh was a role model for me. I remember over the winter of last year I was pulled up to practice Lacrosse with the Varsity Lacrosse team. 

I was kind of freaked out as a freshman playing with Juniors and Seniors and Josh recognized that. The first practice Josh came up to me introduced himself, shook my hand and did his best to make me feel comfortable. It meant a lot to me that he did that and for his actions that practice he gained a lot of respect from me. Obviously when Josh passed it affected the community deeply but, it also brought people together. 

I saw numerous groups of students and citizens coming up with different ideas to help memorialize Josh and different events to help out the Sweet family and to raise awareness about suicide. 

However, when school started I expected the school to do the most because Josh was a student there and at school is the best way to help students. Sadly the only mention there was of Josh was a one minute announcement by Mr. Rogers for all four grades and a poorly run suicide awareness campaign by the Guidance office that seemed to do accomplish nothing and lacked the effort that was needed to run an effective awareness campaign. 

One of the few groups that seemed to do anything was the athletes of the Football team who constantly reminded people of Josh by wearing the T-shirts they had in memory of Josh and did things during their games in honor of their lost teammate. I can't begin to explain how disappointed and disgusted I was with this lack of action. 

GHS has always prided itself on educating their students about anti-bullying and suicide prevention. However, after the seeing the school do almost nothing about Josh I have come to think that all these prevention programs were just for show, a way to make the community think they are doing something.

This cannot be the motive the school has for these programs as it needs to be sincere because there are kids who are suffering the same horrors Josh experienced right now and they are desperately in need of help. Right now you are probably wondering why I am writing this now and not five months ago when this topic was recent? 

To put it simply I still had hope that the school would act and sadly I have lost hope that any action will happen. I do not believe the school will act unless prompted to do.

 That is why today a fellow classmate of mine Jake Anderson wrote an open letter and why I write one too because, someone needs to speak out and that is what a concerned group of students and I have decided to do. 

So please if you feel the same sentiment that I do I encourage you to speak out in some way. That could be writing an open letter like this, writing a letter to the School Board or the High School or just spreading the word. As a community it is our responsibility to shed light on this issue in order to improve it.

Colin C. March 14, 2014 at 10:04 AM
Just one more thought, if I may. Over the years we have recognized and tried to help young people deal with a host of serious problems that can threaten them in many ways. Drug use (including alcohol and tobacco), sexual issues (including unwanted pregnancy and orientation), suicide, stranger danger, depression and other "mood disorders", learning disabilities, distracted driving; the list goes on and on. These are serious issues and we should, as adults, find ways to help guide our children in their efforts to learn how to cope with them. Unfortunately, we tend to isolate and address these "life skills" as separate issues, somehow divorced from each other. We also tend to focus on the "issue of the moment" as though it exists in a vacuum. At the moment the very serious problem of bullying is the poplar issue of the day. In this current discussion it is being related to suicide because of the recent, well publicized and tragic series of suicides apparently caused by internet and other forms of this practice. I would suggest that many of these problems are tightly interrelated and should be addressed together. Example: the suicide and addiction rates among young gays is much higher than in the general population. To address either without also addressing sexual orientation misses the opportunity to help these people. Depression, violent acting out, withdrawal, and suicide can often be linked to living in a family where physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse takes place. These need to be addressed together. I can, of course, offer many more examples. It may offend some but I have long believed that learning life skills should be as much a part of our daily, K-12 curriculum as math and English. An occasional assembly on a particular subject is simply not enough.
Todd Sweet March 15, 2014 at 11:48 PM
As Josh Sweet's dad, I'm interested in the comments as well as the original post. Is there a way to get email notices of new comments without posting a comment yourself? I know on the other open letter after I posted I started to receive notices when others commented.
Colin C. March 16, 2014 at 08:53 AM
Mr. Sweet, I don't know what the Patch policy is but I find that as a registered Patch user, which one must be in order to post, I get an e-mail for every new post to any discussion that I have already posted to. As I'm sure you know, there are two separate discussions on this topic; responses to Max's letter and responses to Jake's letter. I hope that helps.
Todd Sweet March 17, 2014 at 12:56 AM
Thanks Colin. I did post on Jake's letter and got emails about replies. I posted here to 1) get replies as I now posted and 2) to see if anyone did know of another way besides posting.


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