Palmetto’s Start With Hello Week 2022


Ryan McKean

Miami Palmetto Senior High School student leaving a thoughtful note for her peers.

Brooke Wilensky, Copy Editor

Today, social isolation is one of the worst epidemics that high school students face. However, Sandy Hook Promise has a solution: Start With Hello.

Start With Hello aims for students to recognize social isolation and loneliness, help fellow peers who are struggling and create an inclusive and empathetic community in order to combat gun violence. The organization started after the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, where 28 lives were lost.

 This year, the program took place from Sept. 19-23, through a three-step framework: first, students learn how to recognize loneliness; then, they learn the strategies and benefits of helping students get through this and lastly, students learn to create a more connected community and help those who are socially isolated. 

“I think Start With Hello is a project that takes a proactive approach to school violence, versus a reactive approach to school violence,” Miami Palmetto Senior High Activities Director Elizabeth Valero said. “It gives us the materials that we need to make sure that kids know that they are welcome in school, they are loved on campus and that they have people in their corner no matter what.”

Since its inception, over 18 million people and 23,000 schools have participated in a Sandy Hook Promise initiative to prevent gun violence nationwide.

The MPSH School Safety Chair alongside senior and 2022 class treasurer, Lucas Hudson proposed a Start With Hello resolution at the student council’s September meeting. Start With Hello week became official with the hopes of making school a safer place after a unanimous vote. 

The week started off with Promise 2 Start With Hello, a day dedicated to Panther pride. Students participated in school spirit day by wearing white and blue outfits.

Day two was Promise 2 Reach Out And Help. During lunch, the student council set up in front of the activities office where students wrote ways to make people smile on a poster. 

“I wrote [on the poster] ‘ask someone how their day is going because I think that one question can really make a difference,”’ MPSH junior and student council historian, Anna Levitt said.

Day three was Promise 2 Be Kind, where encouraging and kind messages were placed throughout the school for students to read.

Thursday, day four, was Promise 2 Embrace Diversity, a day meant to celebrate the diversity at MPSH. On a poster, students wrote down their own unique narratives that make them special and comprise their stories

The week ended with Promise 2 Connect, a day with class mixers and games, where students had a chance to meet new people.

“Today’s [Friday] was Promise 2 Connect which was the finale of a long week of different initiatives we had. It brought a lot of people together during lunch in the courtyard,” Hudson said.

The week’s events had one goal, which was to bring the school together to fight social isolation.

“We need to let kids know that those feelings of isolation, loneliness and of desperation are okay and that there are ways to work through those feelings instead of burying them deeper inside where they can come out in terrible and violent ways,” Valero said.

This is only the first step of many of the school’s efforts to combat social isolation. After three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of loneliness have intensified and MPSH plans to bring the school back together this year.

“I think Start With Hello is the first step of many. Our school is really hammering down on inclusivity, diversity, equity and inclusion especially after the COVID isolation weirdness,” Hudson said. “I think it is important that we cultivate a spirit of togetherness and acceptance on the campus.”

Start With Hello has made a school-wide impact, and is only the beginning of the efforts to make every MPSH student feel included and comfortable on campus.