A devastating shooting by a deranged white male at Sandy Hook elementary school on December 14, 2012 left 20 students and six adults dead in an attack not seen before by the country.

In response to the Sandy Hook shooting and other shootings like it, Notre Dame Preparatory has implemented the “Start with Hello” program that was designed by Sandy Hook Promise, a foundation started by the parents of Sandy Hook children. This program encourages unity among students and attempts to combat isolation, which is prevalent among school shooters.

The Sandy Hook shooting was unique in that it was one of the first school shootings where elementary schoolers were the targets of a shooting. Mary Lou Lachvayder said, “As a country it was a little bit difficult [to accept] because it had always been high schools and colleges, so this was the first time it was little kids.”

Unfortunately, the shooting was a reality check for many students and parents. It showed that schools were not prepared to defend its students from a gun-wielding assailant. Rachel Bateman, senior at Notre Dame Preparatory said, “I was not only heartbroken at the tragedy, but I was upset over the fact that I did not even know if I would be safe going to my school everyday, and thinking about this terrified me.”

As a result of the devastating shooting, parents of the victims started “Sandy Hook Promise,” which is a foundation that has a mission to unite as people of all different backgrounds, and come together to stop gun violence in our communities. The foundation helps promote unity, as well as educate the public on how schools and communities can stay safer.

The foundation has made a difference in the country. According to Sandyhookpromise.org, they have trained 7,500,000 students and teachers about the effects of gun violence, and how to prevent it. The foundation also has 6,400 leaders around the country who raise awareness to their cause, these leaders have convinced over 3,500,000 people to pledge that they will help the communities by doing whatever is possible to combat gun violence.

Sandy Hook Promise has founded many programs in order to raise awareness and help combat school shooters around the country. Examples of these programs are “Start With Hello” and “Say Something.” “Start with Hello” is currently being implemented into Notre Dame Preparatory’s schedule for the 2019-2020 school year.

Senior Adam Trupp said, “I think that it is a great program and can make a lasting difference in the school. Most school shooters feel isolated, so this could be a way to prevent shootings. Plus, it is also good to include everyone, this way nobody will feel isolated.”

“Start with Hello” directly combats student isolation, and helps many students feel a sense of belonging. The program allows students to have conversations with other students, without them feeling awkward. It is meant as an ice breaker. 

The program gives three steps to help build empathy: See someone alone, reach out and help, start with hello. These steps can be used by people of any age, and help the person who is feeling isolated feel accepted.