The Anna Independent School District is initiating a new program to help its students have better mental, social and emotional health.

“Thrive” is a special program designed through the cooperative efforts of Anna ISD, the Grand Halliburton Foundation, and the Center of Brain Health of U.T. Dallas. Its focus is to, through education, tools and support, overcome the burdens of mental health conditions such as depression, loneliness, bullying and anxiety.

A fact brought out at the introductory luncheon last week is that suicide by minors is the second leading cause of death in that age bracket. A major focus of the program is to change that statistic.

“I am so appreciative of the people who have started this program,” Anna ISD Superintendent Michael Comeaux said, when opening the program.

Anna Mayor Nate Pike followed by saying he is passionate about the program.

“This is a fast-growing rural community, quickly becoming more suburban than rural,” Pike said. “The reality is, we have problems here. I rode along with both police and fire and we had to break up fights and had other incidents involving the city’s youth. It’s a national problem, not isolated at all to Anna. The youth live in a world of technology, social media. These ride-alongs let me see first-hand what it’s like. A change in culture, and it takes a community, an outreach, to start opening our eyes and ears.”

Vince Sharp, the district’s director of counseling, said when he started working in the schools, he began to see how children are coping with everyday life.

“I learned that one in every five students need services,” he said. “We have 3,800 students here, so we are looking at roughly 700 or 800 students who need help.”

He set out to find a way to help them, and the result is Thrive.

“It’s a comprehensive plan, not just for individuals,” Sharp said. “We just put together a strategy. Each individual campus has its own plan, such as one may want to focus on drama, it’s not a cookie-cutter plan that fits all seven Anna schools.”

Sharp said it starts with it being “Okay to Say” that you’re not okay.

“The first line of defense is peer-to-peer, those friends that a student calls or texts at 2 a.m.,” Sharp said. “We want to empower those kids even more.”

Sharp added that the district’s staff has received training.

“To improve the strategy, we called the Center for Brain Health,” Sharp said. “Thrive is a five-year approach, not a six-month or year process, but we need to do this every single day.”

Vanita Halliburton, a co-founder and executive chairman of the Grand Halliburton Foundation, called Thrive an “unprecedented powerhouse of experience, research and resources that will transform the way students learn and grow and flourish in this school district.” She said Anna ISD is the first school district in the world to introduce Thrive, “infusing mental health into the academic culture.”

“It is as new era in education, where we begin to regard the primary aim of education as more than filling a child’s mind with knowledge,” Halliburton said. “Because if a child comes to the place of learning with more in his backpack than books, if he’s bringing the burden of trauma, abuse, neglect, poverty, an unsafe home life, or other mental health issues, these burdens will impact his ability to focus, learn, explore, grow, perform, and realize his full potential. And every child deserves the chance to realize his full potential.”

Halliburton said that one in every five children and teens have a “diagnosable mental disorder” and one in four has symptoms of depression.

“These struggles significantly impact their ability to perform on a daily basis,” she said

Thrive is not just for students, Halliburton added. She said it is for teachers, administrators, coaches, parents, “every adult who lives or works with young people.”

Thrive is based on awareness, student education, adult training, peer-to-peer and research.

“Well, now it is ‘Okay To Say’ to a teacher, a counselor, a Hope Squad member, a trusted friend, ‘I’m hurting and I need help,’” Halliburton said, adding they will find help.

For more information on Thrive, visit, then click on “Education” in the top menu bar.