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Sandy Hook Promise Announces Winners Of Student Voices Contest

Winners Showcase How ‘Start with Hello’ Builds Community and Breaks Barriers

Newtown, CT — Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that young people who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse and violence. Designed specifically to help create a more inclusive and connected school community, the Start with Hello program reduces the social isolation that can lead to violence in schools. Breaking down barriers to build community is the subject of the Start with Hello Week Student Voices competition.

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), a leading school violence prevention organization, launched the awards in tandem with the larger Start with Hello Week national campaign held each fall that raises awareness about social isolation and educates students and the community on how to prevent it through training, awareness, and a variety of fun activities.  This year, more than 14,000 schools signed up to participate in Start With Hello Week, more than any other year since its inception.

The compassion and creativity of today’s youth was evident in the hundreds of entries received from students across the nation in three categories; video, written and spoken. Students from around the country were asked to submit creative expressions inspired by the theme: How Start with Hello Builds Community and Breaks Barriers.

This year’s winners include Jane Williams, a freshman at Northville Central High School in New York, who wrote a haiku about helping a fellow student overcome depression and thoughts of suicide by saying hello and becoming their friend. Daniel Emmanuel, a student from the Academy for Information Technology in Scotch Plains, New Jersey submitted a video of a song he wrote about how saying hello can help students feel more welcomed in their community and end social isolation.

“Teaching empathy and compassion in early life is absolutely critical for preventing violence and depression,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. ”I am truly inspired by all of the amazing work submitted by students. It’s by creating an engaged and empowered youth that we will have long lasting change.”


About Sandy Hook Promise: Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. 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.  SHP’s mission is to create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence, and other harmful acts in schools. Through its proven Know the Signs 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. SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the “human side” of gun violence by preventing individuals from ever getting to the point of picking up a firearm to hurt themselves or others. Our words, actions, and impact nationwide are intended to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. Make the Promise at

Media Contact:

Aimee Thunberg, Communications Director, Sandy Hook Promise                               

[email protected] | 203.304.9780 x177