Letter: After Sandy Hook, Burrillville students must learn to ‘Start with hello’

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As a mother and music teacher, when I read about the tragic loss of children and staff at Sandy Hook and most especially, of a kindergartner named Daniel, I was horrified. I looked at my own Daniel, sleeping peacefully in his bed and felt called to do something. This is when I learned about Start With Hello Week. It’s organized by Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization led by several family members who lost loved ones at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012. Based in Newtown, Conn., their mission is to prevent gun violence before it happens by teaching youth and adults how to recognize the signs, intervene and get help for individuals who may be at-risk of hurting themselves or others. Part of the intervention must be a focused effort of kindness and inclusion. In that vein, this year we will also participate in the Kindness Challenge.

I know that social isolation is the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely or treated like you are invisible, and it is very real. It is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and depression. As a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development or choose to hurt themselves or others. I firmly believe that we can change this.

My students and myself are blessed to have an outlet for isolation- music. No matter what a child participates in, however, school should be a place where they feel accepted and supported for who they are and who they want to become. Not all children, nor adults, feel they have an outlet or that they matter. I want my students and my society to send the message that violence need not the antidote to emptiness. It starts with me and it starts with hello. My school, Burrillville Middle School, began participating in 2016 and I am very excited to bring it to my school again. I hope we can count on your support.

Start With Hello Week is this September 24-28. Start with Hello teaches students, grades 2-12, the skills they need to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation and create a culture of inclusion. In addition to young people, Start With Hello benefits educators, administrators, community organization leaders and parents. By creating a culture of kindness and inclusion, schools and communities can support better their youth and reducing risk of bullying, violence and depression. Participation is free and easy to implement.

To bring Start With Hello to a school or youth organization here in Rhode Island, or elsewhere, please visit: www.sandyhookpromise.org/startwithhelloweek https://kindnesschallenge.com/ https://www.nooneeatsalone.org

Sincerely,

Rosanna Campbell, Mother, Burrillville Middle School Choral Director, Sandy Hook Promise Leader