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ELKO – Nine months might seem like an eternity at the start of the school year, but time flies when you are working on a big project and up against deadlines.

“Hard work pays off and don’t procrastinate,” eighth grade charter school student Aaliyah Crutcher said about her project on suicide awareness.

“Four of those nine months were gone due to procrastination,” she said.

Despite the slow start, Crutcher raised $1,200 for Survivors of Suicide Loss of Northeastern Nevada, and raised community awareness about a tragic national problem.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers,” Crutcher said.

“The eighth graders are responsible for writing what is called The 20Time Project,” said Lori Lynch, a teacher at the Elko Institute for Academic Achievement. “At the beginning of the year they have to identify the community they are interested in that is in need. They spend the entire year developing a product that will serve that community.”

The 20Time education project is a standardized learning tool for students. It helps them learn to research, organize, create, cite, publish and showcase their work. Typically, students are graded on planning and presentation rather than the final result or product.

The students were required to find mentors, do outreach programs, and contact manufacturers and industries. In essence, they learned how to network.

“There are three focuses in this,” Lynch said. “This teaches them that they can make a difference and how to be involved in and better the community. Academically, it teaches them why they need to learn to write and communicate effectively.”

The students covered a variety of social topics including epilepsy, foster care and disability. They created websites and videos. They tapped into crowdsourcing. They researched how things work in other communities. In the end, all of the students came away with a final portfolio or presentation.

Crutcher sought out help with her project by reaching out to her older brother, Cody Carithers, who is part of the Moonshine Outlaws, a local band. Crutcher arranged for the group to play in the Great Basin Amphitheater. She also created a video of the performance. A silent auction brought in more money for the cause. Many businesses also contributed by donating funds, merchandise and services.

It was a lot of work, but for 15-year-old Crutcher, it was worth it.

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“Everyone wants me to do it again next year,” Crutcher said.

Lynnette Vega, facilitator of Survivors of Suicide Loss of Northeastern Nevada, also served as one of Crutcher’s mentors. Crutcher donated all of the money she raised to the organization.

“We have wanted to become a nonprofit group and it takes over $1,000 to do this,” Vega said. “That way we can apply for grants and do a lot more.”

During the concert PACE, 911, Family Resource Center and Survivors of Suicide were on hand with their pamphlets and other information for people to familiarize themselves with the services available to families and individuals who might be affected by suicide.

“The message that you guys gave is that there is hope,” Vega said. “If you are in that place, there is hope.”

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