HP Project Purple Initiative: DUNLAP, IL
The athletes at Dunlap High School are looked up to as the Illinois’ school’s leaders. This fall, a dozen or so athletes – mostly captains of various Dunlap’s teams- were asked to step up and lead the charge for something far greater than a football game or volleyball match.
These athletes, including captains of the football team, stood in front of 1,300 Dunlap students at the Homecoming Pep Rally and introduced THP Project Purple Initiative. The leadership group sent a glaring message to their peers about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, encouraged their classmates to stay drug free for their high school career and take part in THP Project Purple Initiative.
The response was overwhelming. A week later, more than 700 Dunlap students took the Project Purple Pledge. Signatures surround the THP Project Purple Initiative pledge just under the purple banner hung at the school.
Tom Welsh, who has been a high school principal for 20 years, including 10 at Dunlap, said what makes the THP Project Purple Initiative different from all others he has been involved throughout his career is that this one student-led.
“It wasn’t me, the principal, speaking at the pep rally,” said Welsh. The athletes are looked up to at this school. That’s what made the message so powerful. It came from students, leaders and peers.
“The athletes are the students looked upon as the leaders of our school,” said Welsh. “When they were asked to get involved, they responded right away. It’s been great having them on board to launch such a great initiative (THP Project Purple Initiative).
Two of the elected officials of the club directing on the THP Project Purple Initiative are football players – including the President and Vice President. While the athletes are involved, all Dunlap students are encouraged to engage in THP Project Purple Initiative.
To raise awareness and generate funds for the THP Project Purple, Dunlap held a Dodgeball tourney and has sold THP Project Purple Initiative t-shirts and wristbands. Now students wear purple as proudly as they wear Dunlap’s signature maroon and gold.
“This is really good stuff,” said Welsh.
The immediate goal is to have the THP Project Purple Initiative founder – Chris Herren – speak at Dunlap in the spring.
“We have a lot of athletes in our school. Chris Herren has an amazing presence and story,” said Welsh. “Our students could really relate to him.”
The long term goal is to bring the THP Project Purple Initiative to middle schools in the area.
“(Drug and alcohol use) is happening and at a younger and younger age,” said Walsh. “The earlier we can reach the students, the better.”