In How Hope Squad Changes Culture, Dr. Greg Hudnall the Founder of Hope Squad joins Travis Nipper to discuss the genesis of Hope Squad and what drove him to start the organization. He shares with us the unique relationship that Hope Squad and Grant Us Hope has and how Grant Us Hope has become a national leader in the mission of saving lives. He gives us some practical tips to stay healthy and thriving during the pandemic and these uncertain days of back-to-school. Then, he walks us into great detail about how Hope Squad changes and maintains culture in schools.

Listen to Episode 5

Travis begins by introducing Dr. Greg Hudnall and his extensive experience regarding suicide prevention methods and efforts (1:25)

Dr. Hudnall shares that he is a former high school principal in Utah, a state that is known for high rates of teen suicide, as well as some personal experiences losing students to suicide. As he progressed in his career, he only grew his involvement with suicide prevention and emphasized its importance in the community as a whole, rather than just in schools. He adds that despite taking a village to raise a child, it takes a community to save a child. (2:48)

After sharing another tragic anecdote, it prompted him and his peers to recognize that there was a complete lack of peer-to-peer intervention within schools. He adds that after the training of students to do this, the program led to 9 years without a suicide (7:30)

Greg continues by saying that he was invited to present to both state and national legislatures and has outlined how much his efforts of Hope Squads have grown (9:50)

He then explains the difference between Hope Squad and Grant Us Hope, and how significant the impact they have had on students across the nation (10:50)

As the growth continued, Dr. Hudnall notes that GUH is a necessary extension in Ohio that has run with the Hope Squad and even improved upon the model (12:08)

Travis then prompts a conversation about the myths surrounding suicide. Greg discusses 1) that many people believe that only the experts can prevent suicide, when in reality the real-life savers are those closest to them. Additionally, he notes that Hope Squads act as a bridge for the people who don’t want anyone else to know about their suffering. He adds that 2) the myth of asking someone about suicide increases their risk can be rebutted with the idea that it opens up the conversation and allows for meaningful, productive dialogue (13:40)

Greg then outlines trends he is seeing in our youth that have come with the pandemic. He cites some studies noting that there has been an uptick in suicides with adults, and how that can lead to the same uptick in children. He translates that fact to the importance of focusing on adults as well as children. Furthermore, he discusses the point of dysfunctional homes and how children have lost the outlet of going away to school. Thirdly, Dr. Hudnall mentions how this is an advantage to grow compassion between students during a turbulent time like now (17:55)

Travis then asks if Greg can offer helpful words for mental health support during the pandemic. Greg highlights the return to school and how that creates anxiety that should be addressed by parents (22:00)

Pivoting back to the topic of culture, Travis asks how to change cultures in schools. Dr. Hudnall begins by mentioning that individuals in schools are those who are able to enact this slow-moving change. He describes a personal experience of a Hope Squad nomination process. Furthermore, he notes that these students are natural helpers and how they should be appreciated by teachers in order to further the conversation. (25:40)

Dr. Hudnall then describes his vision of long-term success. He starts off by saying that the school has not had a suicide in the 16 years since Hope Squad’s creation, a tremendous feat. Next, he describes a longitudinal study conducted by BYU that shows how the Hope Squad is a lifelong skill. Additionally, he notes how this has translated to other areas of the community like veterans suffering from mental illness. He circles back to say that his goal is to be in every school having an impact (30:15)

Travis asks what role Hope Squads can play in inclusivity. Greg replies with how creative ideas have flourished with the initiation of online learning and have included efforts to reach out and continue the focus of wellness in students (38:09)

Dr. Hudnall goes further to note that young people generally are more inclusive than adults, despite the existence of cliques and whatnot. He shares an experience of how a member of a Hope Squad who was on the football team said that he was so happy to grow relationships with peers that he never would have before (41:35)

Talking about the future of Hope Squads, Greg shares a story of him traveling to Washington. On the plane he said he noticed athletes getting on and began to talk to the head coach of the Washington University basketball team who shared that they lost an athlete to suicide recently. The coach said that he saw the bases of a Hope Squad during that experience and that he reinforced their success. Circling back, he begins to say how they will focus on the United States now and spread to universities and workplaces, but he hopes to spread the impact to other countries (44:44)

Travis then gives Dr. Hudnall a chance to talk about his book, Hope Squad, and how it came to be (50:45)

The best way to connect with Dr. Hudnall is by going to (53:55)

Finally, we conclude with Greg’s mic drop. Dr. Hudnall shares the quote, “Hope is our greatest future.” He stresses the importance of peer-to-peer successful and friendship (55:10)


Dr. Greg Hudnall, Founder, Hope Squad.

Website:  Dr. Greg Hudnall

Hope Squad Website: Hope Squad

You can follow the podcast on Twitter at @GUHPodcast

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Upcoming Episodes

Check back for our next exciting guest!

Past Podcasts

July 28 – Diane Egbers: WHY Grant Us Hope, with Diane Egbers, Founder of Grant Us Hope

August 4 – Return to School Anxiety: How to Help Your Teen with Dr. Beverly Smolyanski, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center

August 11 – Changing the Culture of Your School for all Students with Suzanna Davis, Director of Programming, Grant Us Hope

August 18 – Helping Youth Who Have Experienced Trauma with Jeremy Joseph, Montgomery County Educational Service Center