DANBURY, Conn. -- Students at Danbury's Pembroke Elementary School were recognized by Sandy Hook Promise for their work on a program meant to foster a sense of inclusion for all students.
Representatives from Sandy Hook Promise, an organization founded by parents of children killed at the Newtown school in 2012, visited the Danbury school on Friday, Sept. 23, to congratulate students on their focus on the Start with Hello program that encourages kids to reach out to those who may feel isolated. Officials with the organization also worked with students in practicing the social skills in the Start with Hello program.
James Belden, a co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, presented an award to Pembroke Principal Sharon Epple during the Friday assembly.
"It's more than we could ever have dreamed of. This is in recognition of what the school is doing and will continue to do," Belden said.
Pembroke was one of eight schools to earn this honorable mention award from nearly 600 schools nationwide participating in the February Call to Action week organized by Sandy Hook Promise, school officials said. In May, Broadview Middle School in Danbury was presented with a $10,000 check for being named the top school in the nationwide initiative.
Students in schools throughout the Danbury school district have made Start with Hello a part of their daily routine. Start with Hello addresses social isolation, a growing epidemic in schools and across the country, and refers to the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely and treated as invisible.
Research shows that excessive feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior, school officials said. This program teaches students in grades two through 12 skills necessary to reach out and include those who may be dealing with chronic isolation.
Sandy Hook Promise member Donna Moxham told students that feelings of isolation can also lead to bullying. She encouraged them to continue to find ways to reach out to everyone.
“We need you. Only you can create a sense of belonging," Moxham said. “Be that person who notices someone is alone. Be that person who reaches out.”
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