Sandy Hook Promise Announces Winners for Start With Hello Call-to-Action Week



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Sandy Hook Promise Teaches Students Nationwide to “Start With Hello”

 to Promote Social Inclusion


Sandy Hook Promise Announces Winners for Start With Hello Call-to-Action Week


The simple act of saying “hello” can have a tremendous effect on children and young people who feel left out, lonely or invisible in their community. Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), the gun violence prevention organization founded in the days following the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has created a proven program that schools and community organizations can implement where students can learn how to create and sustain an inclusive community. The free program “Start With Hello” teaches students the skills they need to reach out and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation and create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their communities.


From February 8th to 12th, SHP held its annual Start With Hello Call-to-Action week, with over 360,000 students in grades 2-12 practicing inclusion through engaging, weeklong activities. Nearly 600 schools nationwide participated. To galvanize the schools to be creative and involve the community as a whole, a contest was held and Broadview Middle School in Danbury, CT won the grand prize of $10,000.


“Broadview Middle School is honored to receive the Start With Hello award from Sandy Hook Promise,” said Christine Miller, Social Skills Counselor at Broadview.  “Start with Hello, like Say Something, was so simple and yet so powerful, that it took on a life of its own.  Our students had questions, concerns, and ideas and these programs gave them answers and a platform to make a difference.   Our student leaders organized a week of activities and celebrations that had a ripple effect throughout our school and beyond.  The message of Start With Hello, kindness and inclusion, has had a lasting effect that is now part of our school culture.”


Madison Youth Group from Rexburg, ID was the runner up, impressing the judging panel with the way they promoted Start With Hello throughout the community. 


“Here in Madison School District, the Start With Hello campaign was a natural fit,” stated Jessica Goudy, Communications, Events and PR Director for Madison School District 321.  “The ideas and implementation were so easy that we had no problem getting support from each of our schools. Once implementation happened, it spread like wildfire and numerous stories poured in about how one simple hello was not just changing someone’s day, but impacting the school climate for the better.”


The following schools are receiving an honorable mention for their incredible efforts: Adlai-Stevenson PreK-8, Cleveland, OH; Green Local Schools, Green, OH; Poland Local Schools, Poland, OH; Stratford High School, Stratford, CT; Pembroke Elementary, Danbury, CT; Lincoln-Titus Elementary, Crompond, NY; Lopez Elementary, Fort Collins, CO and John A. Ferguson High School in Miami, FL.


Social isolation is the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely, or treated like you are invisible. It is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Excessive feelings of isolation can even be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14%. Furthermore, young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and/or depression. As a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and may choose to hurt themselves or others.


“We hear stories from many young people who say a simple ‘hello’ is enough for a kid who is always left out to feel noticed and valued. Reaching out to and including young people who are chronically isolated can help them in many ways, including from hurting themselves or others,” said Mark Barden, Managing Director of Sandy Hook Promise and father of 7-year-old Daniel Barden who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Start With Hello teaches our young people how to notice and reach out to each other. Reducing social isolation starts with our young people and we can empower them to build connections and help others in their classrooms, schools and communities.”


The last national week that Sandy Hook Promise held was for its Say Something program in October 2015. The program trained over 200,000 students across the country on how to recognize warning signs and signals from their peers, especially in social media, and tell a trusted adult. The free training received incredibly positive feedback from participants and also helped avert a potential tragedy at a school in Cincinnati.


About Sandy Hook Promise

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. We are led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 educators. Sandy Hook Promise is focused on preventing gun violence (and all violence) BEFORE it happens by educating and mobilizing parents, schools and communities on mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals. SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible non-policy and policy solutions that protect children and prevent gun violence. Our intent is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation.


Make the Promise at





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Nicole Hockley, the founder and managing director of the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit working to end gun-related deaths, began her talk by breaking down what “gun violence prevention” really means. In Hockley’s opinion, it doesn’t mean looking at only one aspect, but instead looking at the entire problem: guns and mental health and gun safety. Approximately 7 children die each day due to gun-related violence. In 2012, Hockley experienced this statistic herself as her six year old son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting. Yet even in the midst of her grief, Hockley chose to be hopeful, not helpless. Through their nonprofit, Sandy Hook Promise, Hockley and her colleagues hope to teach others how to recognize at-risk people in order to avert other gun violence tragedies. “The list of tragedies that could be avoided is endless,” Hockley explained. “We just need to know the signs, act on them, and prevent the next domino from falling.”

Nicole Hockley is the Founder and Managing Director of the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit working to end gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide, and accidental discharge. The nonprofit is working to build a national movement of parents, schools, and volunteers committed to gun violence prevention in their local areas and on a national stage by influencing state and national policy regarding the issue. The Sandy Hook Promise advocates for mental health and wellness early-intervention programs, and sensible gun safety and storage practices to build more secure campuses and communities nationwide.

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Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden

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