To end social isolation, students Start with Hello

To end social isolation, students Start with Hello

Scituate students signed a banner, pledging to end social isolation in their community through the Start with Hello program.

SCITUATE – Students Against Destructive Decisions at the Scituate Middle and High School say they are committed to ending social isolation in their community, a goal they say can be achieved if students, staff, and community members Start with Hello.

Under the guidance of adviser Erika McCormick, students are participating in the Sandy Hook Promise program Start with Hello, which teaches students in grades 2 to 12 the skills they need to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with social isolation and create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school.

“We obviously want to be a more inclusive school,” McCormick, who has led the SADD club for 15 years, said. “And the students are at the forefront of this, because they’re the best ones to teach their peers.”

To announce the Start with Hello program, SADD members and volunteers from the Western Cranston Garden Club planted hundreds of crocuses in front of the middle and high school on Oct. 23.

“When the flowers bloom in the spring, it will represent a change in behavior in our community,” McCormick said.

Before those flowers bloom, the 30 high schoolers involved in SADD club will devise different ways to foster a culture of inclusion and discourage bullying.

This may involve slipping words of affirmation into middle school lockers, sitting with strangers during lunch period, or implementing a school-wide name tag day.

Amelia Dexter said the club was motivated to participate in Start With Hello following a loss in the community.

“This really started off with recently having a suicide in our school,” Dexter said.

The Spartan community has lost two students to suicide in less than a year.

“We don’t really know what’s going through other people’s heads,” SADD President Abby Williams said.

That sobering fact has pushed these students to mobilize and make a change.

“When tragedies like this year happen, our community has been known to come together,” SADD Vice President Cassie Clancy said. “Incorporating this in our school will help include people ... we really just don’t want anyone to feel alone.”

Clancy also spoke to the effectiveness of peer education. She and other SADD members support Principal Michael Hassel’s message of unity, but, she notes, “Sometimes people need to hear it from another student.”

Club member Hope O’Rourke said she could empathize with isolated students and wanted them to feel understood.

“There’s obviously been times where I haven’t felt as welcomed,” O’Rourke said. “But this can help.”

Most of the students in SADD joined the club for the same reason as O’Rourke – to become a part of a change agent.

Scott Stuard said he was hesitant to join SADD freshman year, but two and a half years later, he’s never felt more sure.

“I realize how important it is and how much it has changed my life,” Stuard said. “And it can change other’s lives too.”

The SADD club hopes the Start with Hello program grows just as fast as crocuses in spring, eventually planting roots in the community at large too.

“It’s a community problem,” McCormick said. “And it takes a community to address it.”