Local developer partners with area schools to pilot student friendly app

Calista Busch | Staff Writer

Bullying, self-harm, drug abuse — there’s an app for that.

StudentSuite is a new app tailored specifically to high schools. The components of the app range from a digital student ID, bus tracker to educational content referred to as the Lifeline Button, which provides materials to educate students about depressions, anxiety, bullying, drugs and alcohol along with guidance to help students make informed decisions, said co-founder Kevin Kidd.

“We hope that students who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide will find some encouragement and some help,” Kidd said. “There’s an education piece in the Lifeline. If a student is confronted with drugs, they have this lifeline information to help them understand some of the real risks associated with drug abuse.”

In making the app, several companies around Mason along with outside school districts have jumped aboard the project. Assistant Principal Dion Reyes said the community has been very supportive.

“The community is excited,” Reyes said. “The community is really wrapping their arms around this concept and trying to help students. It shows how much people really care.”

Included in the educational content are videos guiding users through information on the aforementioned topics. The company chose to feature students from local school districts, including Mason, Lakota, Sycamore and Milford.

Sophomore Kara Coffey was one of the actors selected for the project and said they were given scripts to welcome students to each section and describe what they are going to learn.

“I did the bullying section, which talked about how bullying is a big problem and ways that they can fix it,” Coffey said, “It’s also a help center, so students can reach out and talk to someone over the app about anxiety and depression–anything they need to talk about and deal with.”

Sophomore Maliyah Gaines attends Lakota West High School and is also in the educational videos. While she isn’t sure if her school is planning on implementing the app, she said it could really help students at her school.

“I think (the videos) can really make a change in people’s lives,” Gaines said. “I think it will help students feel like they have somebody to give them advice. I think it would impact students at my school because there is bullying (and) drugs and alcohol comes into play.”

Kidd said he saw a need for StudentSuite because of his own children and the problems, like bullying, drug abuse and depression, that other high school students face. He said the high statistics for bullying, self-harm and drug abuse compelled his team to create this app and the Lifeline Button.  He said his team wanted to make something that could impact students.

“We recognized this app could really serve a much more meaningful purpose,” Kidd said. “We hope that students who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide will reach out and not have to suffer alone. It will impact the student culture and help students to understand more about what they’re going through. Ultimately, we hope that we’ll be able to save lives.”

Kidd said he hopes for the app to be released in the spring of 2017 andfor schools around the country  several schools, including Mason, who are interested in implementing itt in their district. Reyes said Mason is still considering whether to implement this in the school district.

“I think we’ve got to see where the final product lies and if it fits what our student body has told us they need,” Reyes said. “We’re going to compare the information we have and use the pilot program to help shape the decision making. There are other things you have to consider when you’re looking at implementation of something this large and personal.”

While Mason has not signed up to implement the app, it is being piloted in the high school. The pilot program includes a group of 30 students who test the app before it is released to the masses. Junior Shannon McCalmont is a part of the pilot program and said they help with decisions about content to make it more appealing to students.

“It’s our job to provide feedback if we didn’t like some of the videos (or) if it didn’t connect with us,” McCalmont said.

Included in the app are incentives to complete the educational content. McCalmont said students can earn points and trade these for free food at restaurants around Mason.

“They provide incentives for some of the trickier subjects,” McCalmont said. “It really appeals to students, so there’s a lot of free things you can get by going through courses about bullying, depression, anxiety and alcohol.”

Coffey said she is excited for the impact the app can have on the school and hopes students utilize the help offered.

“I hope it affects Mason,” Coffey said. “I hope students take it seriously and use it because it’s really beneficial. I hope they realize that, use it and get help because a lot of students need help.”

cbusch.chronicle@gmail.com