ENID, Okla. — Hope is more than a feeling, according to University of Oklahoma professor Chan Hellman, hope is a science.

Hope is measurable, he said, and it ebbs and flows, it can be gained or lost. The more hope one has, the better they can control their life.

"Hope is a social gift," he said. "It's not something that takes place in isolation within you, it's something that we share."

In a 2015 nationwide survey of students in grades 5-12, Gallup polling found that students who reported feeling hopeful outperformed other peers

"Hope scores are significant predictors of average daily attainment and GPA," Hellman said. "Hope is a better predictor of first-year college performance than the SAT, ACT or high school GPA."

Hellman said hope requires three things: goals, realistic paths to attain those goals and the willpower to proceed down those paths.

He's traveled to Germany, Israel and all over the United States on invitation to share his findings, but being that he grew up in Northwest Oklahoma it was a very "full circle" experience to speak in Enid.

School administrators, university educators, community leaders, law enforcement and more gathered Wednesday morning at Enid Public Schools Administrative Service Center to hear about the science of hope, an important component of mental health that Hellman says shouldn't be ignored.

Hope is harder to achieve for the traumatized, which most Americans are, to one degree or another, data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) are traumas lived and witnessed by an individual younger than 18 years old. There are 10 categories of ACE trauma and include things like verbal or physical abuse, sexual assault, neglect or having a parent in prison.

Roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population has an ACE score of 1 or more, meaning they experienced one or more childhood traumas.

"If you have an ACE score of 3 or higher, you're 600 times more likely to have behavioral problems in the classroom," Hellman said, trauma robs people of hope, "If you have an ACE score of 6, you're 3,600 times more likely to be an IV drug user."

Chan Hellman has an ACE score of 8, he said.

Regardless, he found a goal, and with a goal he found hope, helping him avoid the outcomes faced by those with high levels of trauma.

Presentations like Hellman's help inform Enid Public Schools' student counseling protocols.

"Often times we don't think about all of the things that might be going on in a child's life outside of school ... it's not just what happens in the four walls of the school building," Doug Stafford, assistant superintendent of secondary education said. "It's also about finding these other things the child is dealing with that might be manifesting in their academic behavior."

Much of what Hellman shared Wednesday are things educators often suspect or feel intuitively, but lack the words for, or the knowledge of how to best help, testing coordinator Polly Maxwell said. With this information, all EPS staff will be better informed, better equipped to help, she said.

"From this we will continue discussions and trainings ... we're building awareness, we're building understanding and a common language," Maxwell said. "This gives us the vehicle to make changes, and make changes in our kids."

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Willetts is education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. He can be reached at mwilletts@enidnews.com.

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