In the wake of four devastating student suicides, students at Gunn High School are finding their spirits lifted by a little positive psychology.
The five-week-old website "Henry M. Gunn Gives Me Hope" (HMGGMH) has inspired an outpouring of stories from students, alumni, teachers and parents about the good things, large and small, that transpire daily at the school.
"Today I was kinda sad and I went to English class and my English teacher had a big box of donuts," a student wrote. "After I ate the donut I was happy. HMGGMH."
A recent graduate wrote: "Today I was talking with my roommates in college and we started discussing our hometowns, where we come from and our high schools. After listening to everyone else's stories I realized how truly amazing Gunn really is. I had so many friends who would never fit into the classifications like 'jock,' 'nerd,' 'popular,' or things like that. They were just themselves. I feel like all of Gunn is like that.
"Thank you so much, Gunn, for making my high school years as amazing as they were. HMGGMH."
Gunn senior Joyce Liu created the website -- modeled after a website called "Gives Me Hope" -- in her room late at night on Oct. 20, soon after the fourth member of the Gunn community died at the Caltrain tracks since May.
"A lot of Gunn students read 'Gives Me Hope,'" Liu said. (After the fourth suicide) "people said reading it was helping them try to go forward.
"I thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we had something like that just for Gunn. There are a lot of really small things here that make people feel really nice, but we don't necessarily record it, or remember to thank the person.
"It's a nice way for people to do that. It's the really simple things that people do, but they just make you smile. If you ask anyone there, the people at Gunn are amazing."
Liu said she is "shocked, surprised and glad" about results of the website. Postings have come from around the world.
She even got a posting from the originator of the "Gives Me Hope" website, which linked to hers.
One student wrote last week: "As four-fifths of the students lined up for food today (Turkey Feast), I couldn't help but think: this is amazing. It was unfathomable that Gunn parents cooked delicious turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie, etc. -- all home-made food for 2,000 people. And probably more, since teenagers tend to eat twice the amount of an adult. It made me smile. Turkey Feast, and the parents of HMG student, GMH."
Another wrote: "I moved to Henry M. Gunn this year after being physically and verbally abused by students at my old school. I have a learning disability and I never told anyone at HMG. One day after school when I was chatting with some HMG students, I let it slip that I had a learning disability. All was quiet for a second until a girl slipped her hand into mine and told me that I inspire her. That girl and I now help tutor at an after-school center for learning disabled kids. HMGGMH."
Liu said an inspiration for her website was Fred Luskin, a psychologist, author and lecturer who spoke to Gunn seniors in October. Luskin, author of "Forgive for Good," also directs the Stanford Forgiveness Projects.
"He talked about how positive psychology can be beneficial for teenagers," she said.
"With all the suicides, everybody says we have to do suicide prevention. Ms. Likins (Gunn's principal) is getting e-mails from all over telling her what she should do.
"Mr. Luskin gave me the idea that positive psychology is a good thing in general and, in another way, works indirectly for suicide prevention if it makes you feel better about life."
Liu, a graduate of Ohlone Elementary School and JLS Middle School, works on Gunn's student newspaper, The Oracle, plays lacrosse and is active in the French Club.
She also helped launch a student group this fall called ROCK (Reach Out, Care and Know) after she and her "study buddy" Esther Han realized they had served as one another's emotional "rock" following the suicides.
In open signups, about 100 students have volunteered to act as the "ROCK" during their free periods. The volunteer sits at a table in the library with a ROCK sign, indicating his or her availability to talk with any student.
"In general it increases the sense of communication around campus. At least people know that if they do need someone to talk to they are available. It also allows people to know that they're doing something."