City Councilor Paul Hopkins hands out stickers at Brayton School.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Students received a special welcome Friday morning to mark the culmination of Start With Hello Week.
Teachers, administrators, and city leaders were stationed bright and early at the entrance of all city schools Friday morning with spools of stickers in hand ready to welcome each student.
"Start With Hello Week is all about creating an inclusive environment in schools," community outreach co-ordinator Emily Schiavoni said. "It's certainly an important message and the goal is to create welcoming environments for students where everyone feels seen."
North Adams Public Schools partnered with Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit
organization led by the families of those killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for a week of events focused on fostering an inclusive community.
The week officially began Sept. 23 after Mayor Thomas Bernard read a Start With Hello Proclamation at a City Council meeting earlier this month.
Monday students wore the color green: Sandy Hook's color. Tuesday was Nobody Eats Alone Day and students were encouraged to sit with someone new during lunchtime and make sure that no one ate alone.
Wednesday was Walk To School Day and Thursday was Compliment Day.
Friday Morning was Community Welcome Day.
"The whole idea ... is to make connections. It is certainly about preventing violence and building relationships," City Councilor Paul Hopkins said. "But this is just a great way for kids to see that the adults in their lives and community are interested in this. That is the reason that I am here."
Hopkins was waiting for buses to arrive at Brayton Elementary School with former Mayor Richard Alcombright.
He said he started that morning at Drury High School.
"I am happy to say that North Adams teenagers are just like teenagers everywhere -- else a lot of them totally ignored us which is fine," Hopkins said. "That how teenagers tend to be at 7:15 in the morning but a lot of them were engaged and I was struck by the incredible range of kids: tall kids, short kids, the different dress styles, everything ... they look like good kids."
Schiavoni said Drury High School's Senior Class took the lead in organizing, promoting, and running programs throughout the week.
"We're so proud of the Drury High School seniors who took on the majority of the programming at Drury and truly served as role-models in championing this message," she said. "Our turnout on Community Welcome Day was overwhelming, showing that North Adams is invested in supporting this work."
Students in the sixth through 12th grades received special training from a Sandy Hook Promise trainer through a grant from the Attorney General Maura Healey's office. Healey traveled to Drury on Monday to announce the grant and speak to students. In addition, these students will receive other trainings from Sandy Hook Promise in subsequent years through the grant, focusing on violence prevention and mental health support.
Schiavoni said she is confident that students will hold on to these skills and continue to help others who may be dealing with chronic social isolation and work towards creating a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their schools or youth organizations.
"Our hope is to continue this message throughout the year and judging by students’ reactions to the week, they're highly interested in doing so," she said.
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