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Sandy Hook Promise’s New Online Program Teaches Kids About Kindness and Empathy

Newtown, CT — Today, Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) launches its all-new Start with Hello digital program designed specifically for elementary schools. Thanks to generous support from The Walt Disney Company, the newly developed online learning platform will teach millions of kids in kindergarten through fifth grade the three steps to encourage interpersonal connection and prevent social isolation: 1) See Someone Alone; 2) Reach Out and Help; and 3) Start with Hello.

Start With Hello (SWH) is an age-appropriate, research-based program that promotes empathy and inclusion by teaching students to recognize the signs of social isolation, overcome interpersonal barriers, and get to know one another. The enduring success of the core SWH program that launched in middle and high schools in 2016 has led to ever-increasing demand to make its teaching accessible to younger students. The new digital companion includes an interactive storybook, videos, activities, projects, and more to demonstrate and reinforce the three steps. This and all of Sandy Hook Promise’s Know the Signs violence prevention programs are available to schools at no-cost.

“We’ve had tremendous demand for more Start With Hello training in elementary schools and, thanks to Disney, we were able to develop a new platform for this program that helps young kids better understand how to look out for one another. We believe that the earlier we can tackle social isolation and create connections among students, the more ‘upstanders’ we can empower to keep schools and communities safe from violence,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

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 be associated with violent and suicidal behavior.  Young people who are isolated have an increased risk of becoming 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. SHP created the Start With Hello program as part of its mission to prevent shootings, violence, and other harmful acts in schools.

“We know that being a young student isn’t always easy. That’s why The Walt Disney Company is pleased to support the Start With Hello program to encourage kids to take small but powerful actions to promote connectedness, encourage inclusive behavior, and prevent others from feeling isolated,” said Elissa Margolis, senior vice president, Enterprise Social Responsibility for The Walt Disney Company. “We are thrilled that our donation has directly contributed toward expanding this great program to reach even more young children during their formative years.”

SHP shares Disney’s commitment to making lasting, positive change in communities by promoting the happiness and well-being of children and their families. The original Start With Hello program was born of these values and its expansion is a natural fit for a partnership between the two organizations. Both also support and celebrate the role of youth leadership and empowerment in creating inclusive school communities.


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 prevent gun violence and other forms of violence and victimization BEFORE they can happen by creating a culture of engaged youth and adults committed to identifying, intervening, and getting help for individuals who might be 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, Sandy Hook Promise
[email protected] | cell: 646.761.5579