Feb 5, 2018

‘Start With Hello’ Returns to Address Loneliness, Student Isolation

start with hello logo

What would happen if you said hello to three new people today? What new connections could you make? What could you discover?

That’s what the Start with Hello campaign is about: Starting new conversations and creating awareness around loneliness and social isolation.

For the second year, Pickerington Schools, alongside hundreds of schools across the United States, is participating in Start With Hello Week from Feb. 5-9. The campaign is a partnership with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization formed in days after the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 first graders and six adults were killed in a mass shooting.

According to Pickerington school counselors, students who are lonely and isolated may feel they have no one to talk to. They can become a victim of bullying, violence, self-harm, and/or depression. This also can lead to difficulty learning and struggles with social development.

Start With Hello is predicated on the idea that all these concerns can be addressed by starting with one word: Hello.

Start with Hello provides materials and tools to teach children and teens how to be more inclusive and connected to each other and to help eliminate social isolation. By encouraging students to reach out to others to try to eliminate feelings of loneliness, the hope is to prevent future problems.

But the communication doesn’t stop with students. The campaign asks educators, parents, and others in the community who interact with children to take steps every day to be inclusive and connected. Everyone is encouraged to reach out to others.

Last year, many Pickerington businesses embraced the campaign with open arms. With the help of the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce, the district’s social work interns were able to visit nearly 60 businesses to generate local support to reduce social isolation and promote connectivity throughout the city. Businesses shared the phrase “Start with Hello” on their marquee signs and promoted the campaign through short video clips that were shared throughout the schools and the community.

“Last year, Start with Hello was a grassroots effort. This year, I’m excited that people in our community are already talking about the message and programming,” said Cathy Ely, district social worker for Pickerington Schools.

Start with Hello Week empowers students to reach out to those around them, but also promotes self-esteem through community videos. The Pickerington community used videos to expand the message even further to: “You matter, you belong, you’re worth it, and you’re important.” Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of this year’s videos.

“We want students to have a sense of belonging and connectivity to their school setting and community, to feel valued for who they are,” Ely said. “When you feel good about yourself and your school, you are ready and able to learn.”

In the weeks leading up to the campaign, students at Pickerington Alternative School also have been working hard and training with the Start with Hello resource guides to present to elementary and middle school students across the district.

To help start new conversations, the campaign has created five different challenges. Below are the daily challenges students will be participating in. On Wednesday, make sure to wear the color green to show your support for the Start with Hello campaign!

Monday: Say “hello” to three new people.

Tuesday: Invite someone to join you in a positive activity you are doing or going to do.

Wednesday: Reach out and eat lunch with someone new.

Thursday: Say “hello” to three new people in the community.

Friday: Continue to start with hello, continue to build connections, continue to create and inclusive community, continue to make a difference!

Think about a time you felt lonely or excluded. Many people, at some point, have experienced this. In every school and community there kids and young adults who feel this every day. Use the challenges above to help you start with hello, start a new conversation and to remind someone, “You matter. You belong. You’re worth it. And, you’re important.”