Sandy Hook Promise Program Aims To Reduce Social Isolation For Students

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The Sandy Hook Promise, a Newtown-based nonprofit, is sponsoring a program to empower young people to reduce social isolation through national “Start With Hello” week, which will be held from Feb. 8 to 12.

Mark Barden checks out the 'Say Something' campaign at Danbury High School last fall.
Mark Barden checks out the 'Say Something' campaign at Danbury High School last fall. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa, File

“I encourage all Connecticut schools to participate in Sandy Hook Promise's Start With Hello Week,” said Salvatore Pascarella, president of the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents and superintendent of Danbury Public Schools. “We owe it to our young people to sign onto this no-cost, easy to implement program that will help build inclusive classrooms and schools and help our young people who might be struggling feel less alone.”

Social isolation is a growing epidemic, according to a media advisory from Sandy Hook Promise. 

Excessive feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior — and 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/or may choose to hurt themselves or others.

Sandy Hook Promise has developed a program that empowers young people to solve this problem. The free program, “Start With Hello,” teaches students in grades 2-12 the skills they need to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation. They learn how to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their schools or youth organizations.

“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. 

Click here to find out more about Sandy Hook Promise or to register an organization. 

By participating in Start With Hello week, schools and youth organizations are also eligible to apply for a special $10,000 “Start With Hello” award.

Participating schools and youth organizations will be given digital access to no-cost Start With Hello training materials, presentations and a planning guide. The free training can be accomplished in an assembly or classroom format or through student leaders and only takes 25 to 45 minutes.

Sandy Hook Promise is a national, nonprofit organization focused on preventing 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. 

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