ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- Students in the Elmira City School District are working to promote a welcoming school environment. All week, seventh graders at Broadway Academy are participating in National "Start with Hello Week," an initiative meant to help students feel welcome and included.
The move is spearheaded by Broadway's FOR, or Friends of Rachel Club, a group honoring Rachel Joy Scott--the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting. Earlier this year, students were introduced to Rachel's Challenge, a presentation meant to inspire and equip people to create a positive culture in their school community.
"I cried. It was really inspiring," Emersyn Garvin, a 7th grade student at Broadway Academy says of the Rachel's Challenge presentation. "It was all because this one girl did this and she became a star by doing it. So I just wanted to get involved."
On Tuesday, FOR Club put on "Hey Day," greeting their peers and teachers with high-fives at the door. Through it, the hope was to start everyone's day off right and leave students and staff all feeling welcome.
Staff hope the initiative will also encourage students to acknowledge and interact more with their classmates.
"My hope behind this is just to work on social skills with these students," explains Kim Webster, a School Counselor at Broadway Academy. "They're only in seventh grade, so learning basic social skills. Things such as looking at each other. Those basic skills are the important things for us."
The FOR Club will be participating in various activities throughout the rest of the week--all with a similar message.
"If students are in the lunch room and they see a student sitting alone, that they go up to them and say 'hey, can I talk to you, do you want to sit with us?' those kinds of things can be so valuable," says "It is so simple but it can have a lasting impact."
On Wednesday, for example, students will take part in "Get to Know You Bingo," which is meant to help students interact and learn more about their peers. On Thursday, students will participate in "Selfie Day." On Friday, students are participating in "Wear Green Day," which is the color in memory of lives lost during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
"Start With Hello Week" originated through Sandy Hook Promise, a national organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. The group focuses on preventing gun violence and bullying.
"Half of it is just acknowledging each other and just saying hello and creating kindness and showing compassion towards their peers," says Webster.
Start With Hello Week runs from September 24th-28th at schools across the country. You can find more information about Start With Hello Week here.