“If anybody gets down, raise them up by asking them to play with you. Then get them to smile.” From the mouths of babes? Perhaps, but these were the words used by Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School third grader Aiden Dean when interviewed by KESQ about the week-long Start With Hello initiative taking place throughout Desert Sands Unified School District.
Schools from one end of the district to the other joined in the mission to reduce social isolation and build positive connections. From our pre-schoolers and the creation of a handprint banner to our high schoolers committing to reach out to their fellow students, every grade level reminded themselves and us that positive relationships change lives.
Developed by SHP (Sandy Hook Promise, a national, nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut Start With Hello) focuses on stopping violence before it happens. 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 six educators, SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible non-policy and policy solutions that protect children and prevent gun violence.
Among their programs is the Start With Hello initiative based on the fact that social isolation is the feeling of being left out, lonely, and treated like you are invisible. At every school and in every community there are children who feel like they have no friends and quietly suffer through each day. Young people who are isolated can become a victim of bullying, violence and/or depression. As a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and/or choose to hurt themselves or others.
Start With Hello teaches children and teens how to be more socially inclusive and connected to each other. The program encourages students, educators, parents, and other community leaders who interact with children to take steps in the classroom, the lunchroom, and/or on the bus to be inclusive and connected.
By building a culture of inclusiveness, practicing being an “upstander”, and providing tools on how to break the ice, break down barriers, and get to know one another (interpersonal interaction), entire communities benefit as generations begin to incorporate this community connectedness. In addition Start With Hello Week, Sandy Hook Promise organization assists schools in setting up SAVE Promise Clubs and a Know The Signs violence prevention program.
This year, Desert Sands Unified School District joined the Start With Hello campaign with an almost 100% participation by our 34 schools. From “Human Bingo” at Amelia Earhart Elementary School to sharing a healthy-choice popsicle with a new friend at James Carter Elementary School to a “Meet a New Person Scavenger Hunt” at Desert Ridge Academy to sidewalk chalk messaging at Amistad High School, students from one end of the district to the other were quick to catch on to the idea and the importance of the week. Their enthusiasm was captivating and their commitment to begin new friendships by “starting with hello” is one that will make them community leaders.
So … just start with hello!
(For more information, click here.)
Lead photo: Palm Desert High School
- Gerald Ford Elementary School: DSUSD
- Benjamin Franklin Elementary School: DSUSD
- Indio High School: DSUSD
- Palm Desert High School: DSUSD