SPRINGFIELD, NJ — In an effort to curb in school bullying and bring school children of all ages together, the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation has created an initiative called "Start With Hello" Week.

At Monday's Springfield Board of Education (BOE) meeting, the board heard from administrators at James Caldwell Elementary School about the work they did with the student body to help foster more connectivity and friendliness. On hand for the presentation were Caldwell Principal David Rennie and School Guidance Counselor Jamie Devergillo.

Devergillo, who is substituting in for full-time Caldwell Guidance Counselor Marnie Zambolla, currently on maternity leave, explained what the project entailed in an interview with TAPinto before the meeting.

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"It's a week that we did in September about inclusion and kindness and really exhibiting that throughout the classrooms and school environment," Devergillo said.

As part of the program, students participated in a curriculum of different activities in order to make connections and stomp out bullying.

"The students each day in their homeroom, they got to participate in different activities," Devergillo said. "We did kindness bingo, we did the many different ways to say hello...they partnered with a buddy class, they did random acts of kindness. One class even went into the library books and put a nice kindness card in there so that someone could be surprised one day."

Along with the program, several students were designated with the title of hello ambassadors. Their job during the week was to wear special lanyards that deisgnated them. If students were looking for friends or advice, the hello ambasadors could fill that role.

Devergillo noted that even though the week of activities has long since concluded, hello ambassadors continue to wear the lanyards around, as a way to show their support for members of the community who still need it. She said it gives students "a little tool in their toolbox to be friendlier to everyone."

After the meeting, BOE president Scott Silverstein responded to a message from TAPinto and spoke to the efforts of schools in the district, including Caldwell School, to really embrace the message of "Start With Hello" week.

"While it is wonderful to be recognized by an organization like Sandy Hook Promise, it is even more wonderful to see how the students embraced the message and each other," Silverstein said. "We are grateful for Ms. Devergillo's efforts, and the work that she and Mr. Rennie have done to help foster such a welcoming environment at Caldwell."

To learn more about Start With Hello, visit the Sandy Hook Promise website at the following link: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/startwithhello