BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Sandy Hook Promise "Start with Hello" program raises awareness about social isolation and educates students and the community on how to prevent it. "Start with Hello" is just one program in the "Know the Signs" Programs offered by Sandy Hook Promise. 

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national non-profit organization founded and lead by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, CT. Please go to the Sandy Hook Promise Website and join the almost 4.5 million people who have taken the Sandy Hook Promise Pledge, “I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, school, and communities.”

A group of SHP volunteers from Berkeley Heights recently presented the Start with Hello program to all three district elementary schools. It is designed to bring individuals and communities together to foster looking out for and caring for one another, according to the Sandy Hook Promise Website.  Young people who are isolated can become a victim of bullying, violence and/or depression. 

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"I think the 'Start with Hello' assemblies are a great way for students to gain ideas on how to include children who would otherwise feel left out," said Melissa Varley, Berkeley Heights Superintendent of Schools. "At one time or another, everyone has felt left out or lonely. Sometimes it only takes one gesture to make us feel right. When reviewing kindness, my favorite quote is from Mister Rogers. There are three ways to measure ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. and the third way is to be kind."

John Leo, a local SHP volunteer, told the students that he understands how difficult it may be to talk to new people and form connectiveness with people you may find hard to talk to. -- The "Start With Hello" program gives the students tools to make conversation a little easier.  

Eight out of 10 people say it's difficult to start the conversation. -- Leo said, there are many missed opportunities. He explained, everybody looks happy from the outside -- however, people that look happy may be struggling inside. "What we don’t want to do is have friends around us that are feeling like they are alone or have nobody to talk to --- pulling away from society," said Leo. "[We are] empowering you with these tools [to] cross that threshold and identify when you can talk to somebody else."

The "Start With Hello" program follows these three simple steps:

  • See someone alone 
  • Reach out and help 
  • Start with hello

SHP presenter Erin Biddle-Sirop taught the students the tools to help "break the ice" to encourage the students to get to know one another. 

Leo said, "You are always learning -- the more comfortable we are when we talk to others -- the world becomes a better place." 

To learn more about Sandy Hook Promise, visit their website