Project 99’s mission is to educate teens and the community about the negative consequences of suicide and to show students how one choice can devastate an entire community. Our panel of speakers discusses the topics of how suicide directly affects one’s family and community, resources available to those affected, other ways of coping and releasing negative emotions, and reassures students that they are not alone in their time of distress.
The Faces of Project 99
Ed Villarreal is a co-founder of Project 99. He is a retired police sergeant and has seen the very best and worst in humanity after 28-years of service. In 2015, he tragically lost his teenage son Diego to suicide. No one saw the signs, and his son never asked for help. Project 99 SAVES LIVES! He has seen it first-hand. He does not want another family to experience the pain his family has gone through—life is too special.
Michelle never realized she needed to have an awareness and understanding of suicide until she lost Diego. She is a teacher in the Murrieta Valley USD, and was Diego’s tutor. She wishes she had known what to look for, because she was left wondering what she might have missed. It is now her mission to bring suicide awareness and prevention education to students, teachers, staff, and the community so others have the tools needed to supper someone in crisis. She also wants to bring a message of hope. Together we can bring suicide out of the dark so that those in crisis know that they are not alone!
As a teacher for over 25 years, Anna has seen how mental health awareness is important and impacts children and their families. Through Project 99, she can help be a positive influence for suicide awareness and prevention.
Tamara is part of Project 99 to connect with others to help them feel that they are not alone. Tamara has experienced what it is like to feel like suicide is the answer and wants others to know that they do not have to deal with these feeling by themselves. There are people that are willing to help and sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Asking for help is important and is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is worthy of getting the help they need and getting help is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Tamara hopes to help continue to spread a message of hope that every person is valuable and worthy of a full life and should tough times come they are not alone and know where to get the help they need.
Kasey is a Project 99 Board Member and speaker. She is a college student working towards becoming an educator. As someone who struggles with mental health, she understands how alone people can feel and how difficult it can be just to get through the day. Her goal with volunteering for Project 99 is to spread awareness for mental health issues and let people know no matter how they feel, they can get through it and that they are not alone.
Dr. Danielle Hankins serves as one of our mental health liaisons. Her main role within the organization is to provide mental health compliance consultation and community suicide prevention (Question, Persuade, Refer; QPR) trainings. Dr. Hankins holds a doctorate degree in psychology, and a masters degree in education. She has served students in grades TK though 12 within the public school system. She specializes in behavioral disorders, cognitive psychology, program development, and special education.
Sean’s thirty-plus years in education have taught him that we all will be impacted by mental health and/or suicide at some point in our lives, but we can also lessen this impact through prevention and awareness. Project 99 has provided him an opportunity to support his community through Project 99’s various outreach efforts.
Ava Villarreal is an advocate for suicide awareness. She didn’t realize until after she lost her brother Diego that mental health is exceedingly important. Looking and being aware of signs of mental health issues can save a life. Her hope is to emphasize that struggle is okay and that no one is ever alone.
In 2016 Chris lost his niece, Beth Wimmermark, to a death of despair. At five years younger than he was, it felt like losing his little sister. Nobody should have to wonder what they could have done after it’s too late to do something. Working with Project 99 to shine a light on depression and suicide feels like honoring Beth’s memory, and he’s proud to be a part of the team.