UMW alumna and graduate StartUpUMW student, Julie van Ommeren’s decided to complete her college degree in her mid-40s, after devoting many years to raising her children. Just two weeks into her Bachelor of Liberal Studies program at UMW, she lost her 19-year-old son Kyle to suicide. While such a tragic loss would halt everything for many people, Julie became determined to discover how she missed the warning signs and to devote her college and professional career to making sure that others have the tools and resources, like to combat suicide.
“Our new approach to prevent suicide” is the message that pops up on KYVO’s homepage – the program fully developed byvan Ommeren during her undergraduate years. By creating her own major—Advocacy and Mentoring—Julie was able to tailor her coursework to material that would help in the development of KYVO, her nonprofit venture.
“Kyle’s death changed everything about my major,” she said. “I couldn’t accept our failure to prevent my son’s suicide – [nor his death] – without understanding why it occurred.”
Julie developed a 3-point system to prevent suicide. Her methodology dispels common myths surrounding suicide, and places the onus of preventing suicide on each individual themselves, rather than family members and peers of victims. Check out her website to learn more. “Kyle continues to live through KYVO as we work together to help others”, said Julie.
In addition to her academic course load, Julie participated in StartUpUMW – UMW’s student entrepreneurship program that incubates startups and business ideas. Through this experience, Julie learned how to present KYVO as a legitimate enterprise and to pursue financial and operational sustainability.
“I am so impressed with Julie’s ability to find both the beauty and inspiration from such a painful experience. I have no doubt that she will create real and important change in the field of suicide prevention,” said Kelsey Whitman, her StartUpUMW mentor.
To learn more about the Center for Economic Development and its program StartUpUMW, please visit our StartUpUMW website.