KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An auditorium full of eighth-grade students went wild when their teacher did the worm on stage during an impromptu dance contest at Maple Park Middle School in Kansas City, Missouri, Friday.
“Mr. Watkins doing the worm was crazy,” said Emerald, one of the many students caught by surprise.
Watkins found himself front and center during a presentation from Reasons 2 Believe. The KC-based nonprofit promotes mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
Founder John W. Hudson said the dance contest shows students how they can relate to teachers and other adults in their lives.
“We want the teachers to be energetic and know they can engage with the kids on their level to have fun for a good cause,” Hudson explained.
After the dancing, Hudson turned his presentation to the serious topics of bullying, suicide, and practicing positive social media habits. He highlighted the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, too.
Ibti, another eighth-grade student, said she was aware of the 988 phone number before the Reasons 2 Believe presentation. She hopes her fellow students know the resource is available to them.
“It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK if you’re going through something," she said. "There is always someone or something that can help you go through it. You can be happy and smiling again.”
Emerald echoed her classmate’s experience after the presentation.
“It feels comforting knowing I can talk to people if I ever really need it,” Emerald said. “I hope a lot of other people feel like that too and aren’t afraid.”
Hudson, who’s also the author of a children’s book series called "The Fantastic Adventures of Fred Dexter and Friends," gave his Reasons 2 Believe presentation to about 4,000 students in the 2022-23 school year. This year, he hopes to reach 10,000 students.
“The importance of it is to give kids hope and to help kids understand there is help out there,” he said.
More information about booking a presentation from Reasons 2 Believe can be found online.