Local police officers, firefighters and teachers greeted students with high-fives and words of encouragement as they arrived at Wea Ridge Middle School the week of September 24. "Start with Hello Week" is a program by Sandy Hook Promise that strives to make sure each student feels welcomed and connected at school.
Several officers from the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office, Lafayette Police Department and Community Corrections Officer Jim Knogge with his K9 Vasco greeted the students as they arrived by bus or were dropped off by car on Tuesday. TSC Student Resource Officer Aaron Gilman boarded a school bus that had just arrived to greet the students. "We want to make sure our students to feel seen, accepted and safe," says Gilman.
Wea Ridge Middle School math teacher Jen Wilson says the student council implemented the program with the idea that a simple hello and a smile can make a difference. "We understand there are students who get themselves up in the morning, make their own breakfast and put themselves on the bus without interaction from anyone," says Wilson. "Our mission is to say hello and let all students know that we recognize their efforts and we are glad they are at school."
Wilson says students have responded very well to the efforts and there seems to be more energy throughout the building. "I think this has reminded everyone, from staff members to students, to make a more concerted effort to say hello and greet one another," says Wilson. She says every day there is an announcement about Start with Hello Week and a challenge. Challenges include saying hello to a student you don't know, doing random acts of kindness and giving an honest compliment to someone outside your friend circle.
Start with Hello Week is September 24-28. During this time schools and youth organizations across the United States participate in activities and teach students the skills they need to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness, and encourage them to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with social isolation.