- Penn-Delco School District
Aston First Responders encourage Aston Elementary students to say "Hello"
Aston Elementary School launched its Start With Hello initiative, an effort to teach students to be more socially inclusive and connected with each other, on Thursday, October 31. Members of the Aston Police and Fire Departments joined Judge Diane Holfelder, Superintendent Dr. George Steinhoff, Aston’s police dog REX, and faculty to greet and encourage elementary school students to support each other.
Start With Hello is organized by Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. Sandy Hook Promise is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 educators.
Aston Elementary Principal Susan Phillips and her team identified this program as one that best fit the Aston Elementary community. Their goal is to create a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for all students to recognize the signs of loneliness, help others feel included, and strike up a conversation.
“In our effort to promote a healthy school environment and positive interactions among students, we are going to focus on the simple idea of being kind to one another,” she noted. “Rather than focusing on negative interactions or on the bully, we will be participating in the Start With Hello initiative.”
Social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States and within schools. Excessive feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. Young people who are isolated have an increased risk of becoming victims of bullying, violence, and/or depression. As a result, many pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development, and may choose to hurt themselves or others.
“Our teachers have been talking to the students about the Start With Hello campaign and including others,” explained Phillips. “Every student was greeted by an officer with a Say Hello bracelet to launch our initiative.”
Penn-Delco Resource and Aston Police Officer Shane Coyle joined other emergency response members to reinforce the importance of reaching out to each other.
“Aston Elementary has been at the forefront of making school a better and safer place. As a police Officer and the SRO for Penn- Delco School District, it was great to take part in such a special event,” he said.
“It’s our job to educate, inspire, and keep our youth safe. Positivity is contagious and just by saying hello to someone we can impact generations for the better.”
With activities and curricula available for all ages, the Start With Hello training program empowers students to end social isolation by teaching them three easy steps: See Someone Alone, Reach Out and Help, Start With Hello.
"We developed Start with Hello because we believe that the earlier we can tackle social isolation and create connections among students, the more 'upstanders' we can empower to keep schools and communities safe from violence, while also reducing bullying and depression," said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
Officer Coyle whole heartedly agrees: “Something as simple as “say hello” could change a student’s day, week, year, and even life. It’s all about having a positive environment.”
Pictured in photos:
Photo 1 with firefighter Marc Calvecchio: L-R Giavonna Kinsler and Lola White
Photo 2: L - R Gabe Peterkin, Nathan Peterkin
Photo 3: L - R Kirra Campisi, Taylor Cuniffe