CHS Recognized for Mental Health Advocacy


Douglas Darby (right), co-founder of Rise Together, presents a Community Impact Award to CHS Principal Mr. Ty Breitlow, Suicide Prevention Committee member Sophie Brandt, and Chilton Optimist Club President Mrs. Mary Pagel.

Sophie Brandt

Students, faculty and community members from Chilton attended Rise Together’s fifth anniversary celebration at the Boys and Girls Club in Appleton on September 12. During the ceremony, CHS was one of five organizations to receive the group’s first annual Rise Together Community Impact Award, recognizing those who have gone above and beyond in promoting mental wellness and discussing taboo subjects such as drugs,
alcohol and suicide.

Rise Together, a nonprofit group based out of the Fox Valley, was first brought to Chilton by the Chilton Optimist Club. After noticing a growing epidemic nationwide, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry and Mary Pagel — club treasurer and president, respectively — interviewed a multitude of advocacy groups to come in to the high school and remind students that mental health is not something to be swept under the rug.

“When we met (Rise Together), we knew it was an instant match,” said Mrs. Pagel during her acceptance speech at the celebration.

After Rise Together’s initial visit in March, students were moved by the presentation, and CHS’s Suicide Prevention Committee, a student organization motivated to end the stigma around openly discussing mental
illness, did not let the momentum go to waste.

Immediately after, the school took the Crave 21 Challenge, encouraging students to give up a bad habit for 21 days and replace it with a good one. During the three weeks, programs were held throughout the school that
encouraged healthy behaviors. Students could learn about fishing, discuss healthy sleeping patterns, de-stress by cuddling a pack of huskies or even learn to make healthy snacks.

To celebrate over half of the student body accepting the challenge, students had an opportunity to tape high school principal Mr. Ty Breitlow to the wall during a reward party, complete with an ice cream sundae bar.

In early May, CHS and Rise Together made headlines on local news outlets after having dozens of teens get their hair styled during the lunch periods. Whether they shaved, styled or temporarily dyed their ‘dos, students stood up for Mental Health Awareness Month and promoted the 1 Million Mohawks for Mental Health Challenge, an event that strives to bring awareness to the brain underneath the hair and every aspect of mental health.

“I hope people realize we’re here,” said senior Melina Lopez, a member of Suicide Prevention Committee. “(The award) will put us out there and give people a reason to watch what we do next.”

Throughout the student body, faculty and even community, the message was received loud and clear: CHS has committed to shedding light on these once taboo subjects.

“Chilton High School, in partnership with the Chilton Optimist Club, has taken tremendous steps to facilitate a culture of awareness, acceptance and support of and for those struggling with mental illness and/or addiction in
our school,” said Mr. Ty Breitlow, CHS’s principal. “The culture we have is such that students are safe to express themselves as they need to and gain support from our resources. The award is a testament to the dedication of
our faculty and the Optimist Club in supporting students in our community.”

While Crave 21 and the 1 Million Mohawks for Mental Health Challenge events were coordinated with Rise Together’s help, students took the ball and ran with it, which is what put them alongside four other groups in
receiving the Community Impact Award. Those also honored were: WOW-We Care Charity, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Voices for Recovery and Woodward Communications.

At the celebration, Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna proclaimed September 12th as Rise Together Day in Appleton, including in his speech, “We encourage students, faculty and staff to participate in prevention education
and activities, not only during Rise Together Day, but each day forward, making a visible statement that our community is committed to its youth, our next generation of leaders.”

For more information on Rise Together, visit or find them on social media @RiseTogether.