A simple word that Superintendent Brian Doelger hopes will spearhead the Shelter Island School District’s attempts to avoid students becoming isolated, depressed and in the worst case, violent.
The program was developed in Newtown, Conn. by those taking steps to stop violence that left 20 school children and six adults dead and two people injured in the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Next Monday, each student will be given a name tag with his or her first name and the word “Hello.”
Through the coming weeks, students will be encouraged to speak to anyone they see who is alone and may be in need of a friend. They will be asked to sit with different students than with their usual groups to meet new friends and help to bring them into the fold. Exercises will become a part of classroom interactions, all focused on ensuring that no one is isolated from the school community.
A survey of the Newtown program showed eight of 10 students said they were hesitant to offer that first “hello” to a student they didn’t know, but the same eight said after the fact, they were glad they had reached out, Mr. Doelger said.
Students who have engaged in the program have said they believe they’ve made a difference in the lives of others and enriched their own lives, he added.
A second program, underway with Shelter Island and North Fork Schools, is being conducted by the North Fork Coalition for Behavioral Health, which deals with how to identify children and adults who may need assistance. Jennifer Rylott, Shelter Island’s director of pupil personnel, data and instruction, said the program is “definitely a necessity.”
The program is funded by a $235,000 state grant and money from each of seven school districts involved.
On October 3, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, a forum on the program will be held in Southold at the Peconic Recreation Center on Peconic Lane.
The recent number of deaths around the country resulting from vaping is of concern on Shelter Island. At a forum at the school last year, several students said they had used the electronic cigarettes.
The issue will be revisited in health classes this year, according to Todd Gulluscio, director of athletics, physical education, health, wellness and personnel.
Mr. Gulluscio and captains of school athletic teams presented a plaque from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to Mr. Doelger in recognition of the sportsmanship demonstrated by teams from Shelter Island in the past year. Mr. Gulluscio called the award “a tribute to the athletes.”
The board received a contribution of $1,100 from Shelter Island Presbyterian Church to help fund college field trips for juniors and seniors. Mr. Doelger said a second check for the same amount is coming soon. He thanked church members for their ongoing support of the district.
A separate story about the controversy over vaccinations heard at the Board of Education meeting Monday night will be forthcoming online and in Thursday’s print edition.