Students and parents arriving at Los Alamitos High School last week were surprised in the parking lot by sign-wielding picketers. Their surprise was pleasant, however, because the posters bore positive messages, such as “ Smiles are contagious!” and “Be YouNique!”
The demonstration by teachers, counselors and students was the school’s kickoff to its “Start With Hello” campaign, a project started by the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation as a means to combat social isolation. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was the largest school mass shooting in U.S. history. Twenty children and six adults at the school were gunned down inside the Newtown, Connecticut campus.
The premise behind the week-long campaign is that the best way to begin making others feel welcome and part of your community is by offering a simple greeting, said Kenneth Lopour, Los Alamitos High School assistant principal for student support.
Playing a major role in organizing the week’s campaign are students from a new class at the high school, Griffins Reaching Out. The goal of the class is to develop ways to promote positivity and ensure that all students know that they are visible and valued, said teacher Dani Moore. Sustained feelings of social isolation can lead to loneliness and depression, and in extreme cases the desire to harm oneself or others. In one activity this week, students from the class are placing notes with a positive message for the day on the desk of every student in first period at the high school.
Other schools in the Los Alamitos Unified School District, including Lee Elementary, Hopkinson Elementary, and Weaver Elementary have begun the Start With Hello program and other campuses are planning to add it.