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CHCCS Students and Staff Embrace "Start with Hello" Week

In schools throughout the district this week, students have been practicing the simple strategies advocated by the national program, “Start with Hello," a student-support, community-building approach developed by Sandy Hook Promise (SHP). Whether it’s small groups of elementary students reaching out as “ambassadors” to share activities and reminders, or high school students laughing and sharing “fun facts” through the game Human Bingo, moments illustrating “Start with Hello” are evident on playgrounds, in cafeterias and in after school programs this week.

“Start with Hello” is designed to promote school-wide awareness of the importance of reaching out across friendship circles to other students who may be feeling isolated or lonely. As the SHP website reminds adults and children, “Students can take small but powerful actions to promote connectedness and inclusion.” Just saying “Hello” can make a huge difference. 

 Coordinator of Social Emotional Learning, Vernon Hall, said, "’Start With Hello’ week is an excellent opportunity for students to feel accepted and welcomed by their peers. If we are going to build a more inclusive school community, we have to create an environment where all students are accepted, respected, and allowed to have their voices heard.”

Candice Lewis, seventh grade counselor at Phillips Middle School (PMS), said, “‘Start with Hello’ Week is helping Phillips shape a positive, inclusive school community. Today students participated in Mix it Up Day, and they enjoyed sitting with students they don't normally sit with.” The Student Services team at PMS kicked off the week wearing specially created tee shirts with “Hello” in four languages.

MES Start with Hello At McDougle Elementary School, School Social Worker, Laura Olley, has been creating a bulletin board with students and leading activities all week for “Start with Hello.” Olley said, “The bulletin board focuses on the message of inclusion, of making an effort to be brave and take that first step to connect with someone you may not know or who looks lonely. It validates that everyone feels shy, anxious, left out sometimes, and that everyone needs friends. It offers suggestions for conversation starters and examples of how to reach out to someone who may need a friend.”

Glenwood Elementary School (GES) Counselor Bill Rathbun led classes through a discussion of how it may be easy to identify when classmates are physically hurt, but how much more difficult it is to spot peers who are hurting emotionally. Students there also played Human Bingo, as did nearly all the students at Phoenix Academy High School (PAHS) during their lunch period.

In October 2018, a SHP trainer from Los Angeles conducted “Start with Hello” and “Say Something” trainings for CHCCS social workers, counselors, nurses and other support staff. This month’s rollout of  “Start with Hello” across the district represents the commitment in the Strategic Plan to design and implement professional development programs for support staff  to build expertise and capacity for social/emotional learning and mental health wellness.