Elementary and intermediate campuses across the district celebrated Start with Hello Week, a national call-to-action week where students focus on making new social connections and creating a sense of belonging.
“Start with Hello Week is important because campuses are being intentional about ensuring that all students feel connected to the school,” said Jennifer Powers, executive director of guidance and counseling. “A feeling of connectedness breeds other positive feelings like kindness, compassion and empathy.”
Schools celebrated each day with activities and themed dress up opportunities. At Mary Orr Intermediate, the Hope Squad created a video showing students how to start a conversation with a peer they don’t know.
Campus counselor Tiffany Walker said starting a conversation is an important life skill, which aligns with Vision 2030, the district's plan to ensure students graduate life ready.
“Sometimes we have students that are left out, not on purpose, but afraid to join in,” Walker said. “The week gives kids the opportunity to get that courage up to ask someone a question or start a conversation.”
At Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary, the campus implemented a “buddy bench” on the playground. Students who are looking for a friend can sit there, letting others know they’d like to play. According to campus counselor Julie Williford, the bench did not go unused.
“Hello Week is important to celebrate because kids need to notice each other and understand it is as simple as saying ‘hello’,” Williford said. “That easy gesture can really change a person's day or thoughts.”
Several campuses asked students to write kind notes to one another as well as staff. At Carol Holt Elementary, teachers decorated campus sidewalks with positive sayings, and students could pick up a hand-written positive note.
“Start with Hello Week is helping students see the need for connectedness from a young age,” Powers said. “Being connected to the societal institutions in our lives like school or family is an important protective factor that aids in good mental health.”
Even though Hello Week has ended, students will continue to practice kindness with their peers. Parents can provide support by encouraging their students to have a kind word for others, refute negativity, and include those who may be alone.
“There are so many reasons why it’s important for kids to feel seen,” Walker said. “We are all connected.”