During the week of Sept. 23-27 students in Henderson County Public Schools took proactive steps to prevent bullying in their schools by participating in Start With Hello Week. Created by the Sandy Hook Promise organization, the program teaches students to recognize signs of isolation in their peers and how to be more inclusive by reaching out – to prevent bullying and violence before it happens.
According to Sandy Hook Promise, Start With Hello Week teaches students to make a difference with their peers by taking small, yet powerful, actions to promote connectedness and inclusion and to identify and help lonely students who are showing signs of social isolation. Social isolation is the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely or treated as invisible. According to Sandy Hook Promise, youth who feel this way may pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development, or choose to hurt themselves or others.
Individual school initiatives and events during Start With Hello Week were organized by HCPS’ school social workers and counselors to create a culture of inclusion that values each individual in our schools.
“Our school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, school nurses, teachers, and administrators know that meeting the basic needs of students is critical to learning and safe schools,” said HCPS Director of Student Services Matt Gruebmeyer.
At Apple Valley Middle, students “Mixed It Up” at lunch on Friday and sat at color-coded tables matching the color of their outfit that day, using provided conversation starters and games like cup-stacking challenges to connect with peers they don’t usually sit with. Flat Rock Middle students wrote “Encouragements for Everyone” on Post-It notes Thursday, and stuck them on lockers of peers they don’t know well, creating a rainbow of positivity down the halls.
Creek Elementary students built a paper chain to symbolize the connections they have to each other and the importance of each person in the chain, and several schools like Fletcher Elementary hosted a “Big Greet” in car rider lines, with school staff and community members welcoming and high-fiving students as they arrived at school.
“Food, shelter, safety, love and belonging are critical building blocks upon which a great education rests,” Gruebmeyer said. “Start with Hello is one way to help students feel safe, get connected to their teachers and classmates, and feel like they are part of their school community.”
More About Sandy Hook Promise
Sandy Hook Promise is a national non-profit organization founded and lead by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
Learn more about Start With Hello Week at www.sandyhookpromise.org/startwithhelloweek.