BRISTOL - West Bristol K-8 School has received an honorable mention award from Sandy Hook Promise as part of the nonprofit gun violence prevention organization’s second annual Start With Hello Call-To-Action Week.
Back in February, West Bristol brought in school psychologist Debra D’Angelo to talk to students about what they can do to make their school and community a safe and inclusive place for everyone.
D’Angelo explained that Sandy Hook Promise was started by the families devastated by the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook to promote inclusion and acceptance among students.
Judy Michaud, the school library media clerk who organized the program, said rather than focusing on the details of the school shooting, it’s about “inspiring something beautiful out of a tragedy.”
Among the activities the school had that week were: No One Eats Alone Day; Hey Day, where everyone wore name tags to encourage them to get to know each other; Reach Out Scavenger Hunt; Get to Know Me Day; and Mixed Grade Socials.
Start With Hello is one of the nonprofit’s programs to empower students to create an inclusive and connected community by reaching out to those who may be chronically isolated, marginalized or rejected, to let them know that they are seen and valued.
Social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States and within schools, according to a statement from Sandy Hook Promise. “Excessive feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. Young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and/or depression. As a result, many pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development, and may choose to hurt themselves or others. Sandy Hook Promise created the Start With Hello program as it directly relates to their mission to prevent gun violence - and other forms of violence - before it happens.”
In February almost 1,100 schools and youth organizations across the country participated in Start With Hello Week. Sandy Hook Promise reports that the number of participating schools has tripled since 2016.
The nonprofit recognizes the schools that best demonstrate how they incorporated the core values of Start With Hello into their school culture and community at large. The awards are in three categories - the Best Overall Grand Prize winner as well as awards for those who demonstrate Community Reach and Sustainability and Student Spirit, Creativity and Sustainability.
In addition to West Bristol, the organization also gave Honorable Mentions to: Dutchtown High School’s Peer Mediation Team in Hampton, Ga.; Brown Middle School in Madison; and North Arlington School in North Arlington, N.J.
The Grand Prize Winner for Best Overall was Burnet Middle School in Burnet, Texas. The students integrated the program within the entire school, and invited parents and prominent business owners to attend their Start With Hello assembly. Students also created a plan to expand the program district-wide and within the district’s Interact Student Club. The school will receive a $2,500 in Promise Seed Money to help continue their Start With Hello efforts.
The winners of the Start With Hello Community Reach and Sustainability and the Student Spirit, Creativity and Sustainability categories were Pickerington High School Central in Pickerington, Ohio and Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School in Los Angeles respectively. Each of these schools will receive $1,000 in Promise Seed Money.
The runners-up for the Community Reach and Sustainability Award were Howard High School in Ellicott City, Md. and Derby Middle School in Derby. The runners-up for the Student Spirit, Creativity and Sustainability Award were Peasley Middle School in Gloucester, Va. and North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Fla. Each school will receive $500 in Promise Seed Money.
“Social isolation is on the rise, and along with it are many students who feel like outsiders and may act out, with potentially dangerous consequences. With the Start With Hello program, every student is trained to reach out to those exhibiting the signs of social isolation and how to create an overall inclusive and connected community,” said Nicole Hockley, Sandy Hook Promise managing director and mother of 6-year old Dylan Hockley who was killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“Through Start With Hello, we train students to look after and stand up for one another. Since the launch of the program, we have heard from schools about its tremendous effects and how bullying has decreased significantly,” Hockley said.
For more information, visit sandyhookpromise.org or call 203-304-9780.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.