In an effort to address the issue of exclusion and isolation, Nelson County Middle School spent last week celebrating “Start with Hello” week through a variety of activities and events.

The 2nd annual Start with Hello Week at the middle school tackled the issue of isolation by planning different activities and events during the week to make sure students feel included in their peers’ lives.

Ricki Perry, the middle school counselor, said this week of events is great for students to learn how to include one another in their day-to-day lives.

“It targets seclusion and makes an effort to be kind and include everyone,” Perry said.

Perry said last year, the first year the middle school participated in the week-long event, students really got involved and so she decided to participate again this year. This year activities included wearing mismatched clothes to show no one is perfect, getting to know new people by playing Human Bingo and participating in an “ask-a-kid” scavenger hunt, and a random act of kindness day where students are encouraged to do something nice for someone in return for candy.

“The teachers can enhance their lesson plans using these themes, too,” Perry said.

Special guests like Smokey the Bear, Nelson County first responders, and Nelson County school administration spent time at the middle school greeting students as they arrived and encouraging them to be kind to one another.

“The whole energy of the school is great. Behavioral issues significantly decrease during this week,” Perry said.

Principal Roger Dunnick said the school had a wonderful week.

“It has been fun seeing students and teachers dressing up each day and to see people doing things for each other just to be kind. We have wonderful teachers and students and their kindness has been on full display this week,” Dunnick said in an email.

Start with Hello Week is a Sandy Hook Promise program any school can implement and then make its own. According to the Sandy Hook Promise website, thousands of schools and youth organizations across the United States participate in the program.

“When you sign up, you’re bringing attention to the growing epidemic of social isolation and building empathy in the classroom,” the Sandy Hook Promise website said.

Perry said the program is also a good segue into the month of October, which is anti-bullying month.

“We are focusing on positivity,” Perry said.

Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

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