Elmira, N.Y. (WENY)-- Next week, students in the Elmira City School District will try to make sure every student feels included. It's part of Start With Hello Week-- an inclusion initiative happening in hundreds of schools across the country.
Here, students in the FOR, or Friends Of Rachel, Club will participate in various activities throughout the week to make sure students feel involved. Friends Of Rachel is a club honoring Rachel Joy Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting. Students in the club work to create a school climate less susceptible to harassment and bullying.
Students in the FOR Club will be participating in a different activity each day of the week next week. On Monday, students will be shown a "Start With Hello" powerpoint and video. Tuesday will be "Hey Day," when students in the FOR Club will greet fellow classmates as they walk into school. Wednesday is "Human Bingo," where students can get to know each other better through a scavenger hunt or bingo board. Thursday, students will participate in "Selfie Day." Friday is "Wear Green Day," which is the color for Sandy Hook. "Start With Hello Week" originated through Sandy Hook Promise, a national organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. The group focuses on preventing gun violence and other forms of violence and bullying before it's too late. The goal of the group is to make sure every student feels included in school.
Students and club advisors in the Elmira City School District say they want to promote a welcoming and safe school environment.
"We talk about bullying a lot, but we don't talk about those kids that are isolated and alone. A lot of times they're very hurt and lonely and they're at danger of hurting themselves or other people. So we need to reach out to those kids. It teaches them how to be kind, how to reach out, and how to start those conversations to make sure no kid is left alone," says Kim Stanton, the FOR Club Advisor in the Elmira City School District.
"Everyone is their own person, and we really need to accept that, and inspire other kids and really give them hope because if they're just sitting alone, it can really give them hope just to change the mindset about themselves," says Emersyn Garvin, a 7th grade student at Broadway Academy.
"If they don't have friends, they could be a different person and who they are in life. But if they have friends, they could be a whole different person," explains J.T. Guyette, a 7th grade student at Broadway Academy.
Kim Webster, a School Counselor at Broadway Academy, says human contact reduces loneliness, which is what this program focuses on.
"We hope that students will take away from this a life lesson-- that you should always take time to check on others, show kindness, and reach out and say hello, because you may need the same thing in return some day," Webster says.
Start With Hello Week runs from September 24th-28th at schools across the country. To learn more about Start With Hello Week, click here: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org.