A splash of new color, symbolizing hope, has appeared in front of Rutland High School through the efforts of the members of the school’s Umatter at Rutland High School club and the Yellow Tulip Project.
In October, dozens of high school students helped plant the tulips, and now they have bloomed around the sign in front of the building that states, “Rutland High School.”
Jenna Montgomery, a sophomore from Rutland, who is leading Umatter during the 2019-20 school year said on Friday she approached the club’s adviser last year.
“I asked if she was cool with integrating the Yellow Tulip Project into Umatter because I thought that it was a movement that had a similar agenda to Umatter. So we decided to kind of amalgamate the two clubs,” Montgomery said.
Yellow Tulip, a nonprofit group based in Maine, encourages the creation of Hope Gardens. Its website said the “yellow tulip represents happiness and hope” and are inspired by two friends whom the founder lost when they died by suicide because one loved tulips and the other loved the color yellow.
“I thought that the project that they do, their main symbol of the Yellow Tulip Project, is obviously the Hope Gardens which I think do a really good job of getting people to start talking about mental illness and really creating an open dialogue which works alongside Umatter’s goals,” she said.
Montgomery is the regional director for Yellow Tulips in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Obviously, the Rutland High School garden is unusual. Students planted the garden in the fall with the expectation of organizing an event around the spring bloom.
Instead, because of the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the high school is empty.
Montgomery said she thinks it’s fine.
“I think that if we need anything in this difficult time, it’s more hope. I think this does a really good job of providing that. It’s kind a happy little symbol now. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t look at flowers and get happy,” she said.
Emma Gilmore, of Rutland, also an RHS sophomore, said when the tulips were planted, students assumed there would be a “big assembly” when they bloomed.
“Everyone who helped plant them would come see them bloom and it would be a positive event for the community. But with everything that’s happened and how negative people are feeling, the risks for self-harm and suicide have gone up. I think that this is a very positive thing that they can come see,” Gilmore said.
According to Gilmore, some of her friends have come to see the tulips and told her, “it made them feel happier and better to be out in the sun and see something beautiful.”
Nancy Ivey, a social worker at Rutland High School, and co-adviser for Umatter, said the club had come to the high school more than five years ago because a student in the district died by suicide.
Students who were “devastated” by the death wanted to do something to help other peers who might be in trouble, Ivey said.
Because she was a social worker at the school, students asked Ivey to become adviser. Her co-adviser, Barrett Hughes, is a school-based clinician.
The club worked with the Center for Health and Learning, in Brattleboro. The center hosts the Umatter program and youth conferences encouraging positive mental health for young people.
Ivey said members of the Umatter club at Rutland High School served as the leaders for the conference in the fall.
“The whole idea is, ‘smash the stigma around mental health.’ Get people talking about it,” Ivey said.
Members of the club are able to talk to their peers and identify who might need help.
Ivey said the students with whom she had spoken are eager for more discussion and more activities like planting the tulips to develop a positive relationship with improving mental health.
Montgomery added the tulips were planted at the front of the school so more people would see them and ask about their purpose.
“When you explain it, it starts to creates that open dialogue that you were trying to create in the first place. We thought that putting it in a place that was kind of front and center in the community would provide an opportunity for that to really flourish,” she said.