NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle recently launched its inaugural Start with Hello, a Sandy Hook Promise initiative that teaches students to reach out to those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation.
Sandy Hook's Promise trained 40 student leaders, also called Castle Ambassadors, to promote a connected and inclusive school community, according a release from the City School District of New Rochelle.
The nonprofit is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012. The goal of the program is to reach out to students who are isolated and to build a connected school community, the release said.
"Middle school is a very difficult time, and students struggle with friendship, relationships and fitting in," said Dr. Tawanda Robinson, the assistant principal. "We want to make sure all of our students feel accepted and welcome."
Issac E. Young embraced the Start with Hello initiative at the suggestion of Jennifer Vivolo-Carsen, a reading teacher, who thought the program's focus on tackling social isolation was important for middle schoolers, especially in the age of social media.
The school already takes steps to improve the school climate and stop bullying through schoolwide advisory lessons. In an effort to create even more social connectivity at IEYMS, Vivolo-Carsen reached out to Sandy Hook Promise.
Last week, students entering the building were greeted with high fives, smiley faces and encouraging words to jump-start a positive day, according to the release.
Student groups such as the basketball team, the National Junior Honor Society, the French Honor Society and the Student Organization club served as greeters.
Students were welcomed at the door, and Castle Ambassadors accompanied new students to the Castle Ice Cream Social on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, Say Hey Day, students were encouraged to spend time getting to know five new people. Wednesday was Random Acts of Kindness and Make Someone Smile day when students saw decorated lockers and positive notes on their desks. Friday was Mix It Up Day in which students sat next to someone new in class.
The effort carried on this week and will continue until the end of the school year. Fifty-five sixth-graders were trained to ensure that IEYMS is an inclusive community and bullying doesn't take place, the release said.
"There is a really nice energy level in the building," said Vivolo-Carsen. "It makes everyone very connected. Everyone has smiles on their faces."