Bulldogs Learn How to Thrive After Trauma

School shooting survivor Kyler Erickson meets students at KHS and KJHS

Kearney, Mo., April 7, 2022: Kyler Erickson knows that it’s better to look forward when things are at their worst.

Mr. Erickson visited with students at Kearney High School yesterday and Kearney Junior High School today to share his experience of surviving a school shooting and later dealing with the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a standout college basketball player. He encouraged our students to seek support when they need mental and emotional care.

“We’re not defined by what happens to us. We’re defined by what we do next,” Erickson said.

It was a serious and important topic, but Erickson made it fun by starting the assemblies with a students-versus-staff dance-off. The students were encouraged to think about how wanted to be remembered later in life. He also took time for one-on-one conversations with students after the assembly.

Erickson experienced a school shooting first-hand in 2011 while a student at Nebraska’s Millard South High School. After graduating from high school and attending Northwest Missouri State University, it was evident that he had continuous struggles in coping with this traumatic event, he told the KHS and KJHS students.

He left school and sought help. It was determined that Erickson had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In reaching out for help, he developed a strong support system and was able to rebound successfully from the challenges that continued to plague him.

After taking about six months off, Erickson enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he had a successful basketball career. He now (in addition to being an ESPN college basketball analyst) travels the country to help others, particularly high school students, on the importance of seeking help when faced with mental distress.

This decision to bring Erickson to Kearney was driven by the need to support both students and staff, according to KHS Assistant Principal Daniel Miller. KHS Student Advisory Board members told school administrators that their biggest need was for mental healthcare guidance and resources.

“Though Kyler’s experience is an extreme example, we have many students who have experienced tragedy and trauma on some level over the last several years,” Mr. Miller said. “Kyler’s message and advocacy in facing challenges and asking for help resonated with many of our students.”

Visit the KSD Caregiver Corner for a clearinghouse of valuable resources for Kearney students and families, including support services for food, housing, healthcare and academics.