Making Connections Are Crucial

Schools Start With Hello to Help Kids Rebound from Social Distancing

NEWTOWN, CT — Students returning to schools after more than a year of social distancing are facing some difficult challenges. And reconnecting with their peers can be crucial to their success.

Sandy Hook Promise’s Start With Hello Week 2021 award-winning schools showed just how powerful social inclusion can be to help address these challenges. 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.

“Empowering students with the skills and activities to connect with their peers can and does have a life-saving impact,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

Sandy Hook Promise launched the awards in tandem with the larger Start With Hello Week national campaign to recognize local efforts to prevent bullying and violence. The School District Award was presented to the Plainview-Old Bethpage Elementary Schools on Long Island.

SHP also selected the following winners from hundreds of submissions nationwide:

Elementary Schools: Edison Elementary School in Minot, North Dakota; Lewisville Independent School District STEM Academy at Valley Ridge Elementary in Lewisville, Texas; and The Woodside Community School (Public School 361Q) in Woodside, New York.

Middle Schools: North Marion Middle School in Citra, Florida; Palos South Middle School in Palos Hills, Illinois; and North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida.

High Schools: Francis T. Maloney High School in Meriden, Connecticut; High Point Regional High School in Sussex, New Jersey; and Miami Springs Senior High School in Miami, Florida.

To qualify for the awards, each school and district must demonstrate active student leadership, the creativity of expression in programmatic activities, broad community reach, and concrete plans and commitment to sustaining the Start with Hello message long-term. Each winner received an award plaque, cash prize, and free admission to the 2022 National SAVE Promise Club Youth Summit to share their stories and activities with other students from across the country.

SHP also announced the Start With Hello Week 2021 Student Voices award winners in the voice, written, and visual categories. These awards recognize students who creatively voice their commitment to inclusiveness and kindness. 

One student from Lexington, Texas wrote and performed a song about saying “hello.” Another student from Pennsylvania created a video about what it’s like to be bullied and how one person can make a difference. Their creativity and others inspired students nationwide to lead with kindness, reach out and help others, and “start with hello.”

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About Start With Hello: Start With Hello (SWH) is an age-appropriate program at no cost, designed to help kids in kindergarten through 12th-grade break the ice, overcome social barriers, and get to know one another in order to end social isolation.

About Sandy Hook Promise: Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to end school shootings and create a culture change that prevents violence and other harmful acts that hurt children. Through its life-saving, evidence-informed Know the Signs prevention programs, SHP educates and empowers youth and adults to recognize, intervene, and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated and/or at risk of hurting themselves or others. Through nonpartisan policy and partnerships, SHP advances gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education at the state and federal levels that protect all children from gun violence in their schools, homes, and communities. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  Learn more at www.sandyhookpromise.org.

Media Contact:

Dirk Perrefort | [email protected] | 203.470.0699