Start with Hello Week at Peoria Public Schools

Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 9/20/2019 3:10:00 PM

Next week, 15 Peoria Public Schools will observe Start with Hello Week, part of Stop the Violence Through Student Voice – a multi-faceted, three-year program of Sandy Hook Promise designed to build a positive culture and climate within schools to address bullying, violence and suicide.


Each participating PPS school has a volunteer Culture Coach and an Adult Champion trained by Sandy Hook Promise. Culture Coaches bring Sandy Hook Promise training to all school staff members to ensure best professional practices. Adult Champions work with the school’s Promise Club -- a team of student volunteers who develop campaigns to promote a positive, inclusive and supportive school culture.


Promise Club members also receive Sandy Hook Promise Know the Signs training which consists of four components:

  1. Start with Hello
  2. Say Something
  3. Signs of Suicide
  4. Safety Assessment and Intervention

At a recent Saturday morning training session, Promise Club members were asked to recall a time they felt lonely, excluded or ignored. This type of isolation, experienced by millions of students each day, can lead to bullying, violence and depression. Isolated students may struggle with social development and learning, develop negative physical health issues and hurt themselves or others.


Promise Club members learn to recognize peers who may be struggling and lonely, and reach out to them. Promise Club members learn to prevent violence by looking for warning signs and threats on social media, in classrooms, hallways and lunchrooms, and then taking threats seriously and immediately telling a trusted adult. The training gives students specific strategies for initiating the conversation with a trusted adult.


Promise Clubs begin to share these messages next week with their peers. Each school club has planned activities throughout the week to raise students’ awareness of and encourage positive and supportive interaction, particularly with students they don’t know well. Many schools, including Lindbergh Middle School and Trewyn School, will kick-off Start with Hello week with staff and students wearing name tags so everyone can greet each other by name. Other activities at PPS schools include:


  • sitting with someone new at lunch, particularly students sitting alone
  • making efforts to compliment and give positive feedback to other students
  • writing a note of kindness or encouragement on a banner
  • reaching out at recess to interact with different students than usual

Peoria High School’s club produced a video for freshmen giving them a tour of the school including the library, counseling office and UnityPoint Health Clinic, sharing school resources to use if they feel sad or overwhelmed and encouraging them to join extracurricular activities.


Sandy Hook Promise is one more initiative of Peoria Public Schools to focus on our students’ social and emotional health by providing comprehensive, research-based professional development for our staff members and by involving our students in the process.