Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $837,572)
The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation (SHP) and the Pennsylvania State Department of Education (PDE) requests funding, under Category 2 – Train school personnel and educate students on preventing school violence, to implement the Start With Hello school violence prevention program. Pennsylvania is composed of five hundred public school districts, more than 170 public charter schools, public cyber charter schools, Career and Technology Centers/Vocational Technical schools, and public Intermediate Units, totaling more than 1.6M students. According to the Fall 2021 Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), a review of youth in the 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades, students are experiencing significant challenges in the areas of mental health, suicide risks, bullying, depression, grief, social isolation, safety and other stressful events. Exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent transitions from in person, to virtual, and a return to in person learning, Pennsylvania students are struggling to survive. The 2021 Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) indicates that suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth, ages 10 to 24, and has resulted in nearly 6,500 deaths each year. Likewise, despite receiving great public attention and awareness over the years, bullying in PA schools remains a problem. This risk factor is further complicated by cyberbullying, which provides even greater opportunity for harm, as the likelihood of repeated bullying, via the shares, likes, views and links of student, and other, viewers, is extremely high, resulting in social isolation.
Pennsylvania’s students should feel safe, heard, and well-cared for at school and in their communities. They deserve to thrive, rather than simply survive. To support this belief, SHP and PDE are partnering to expand training to 80 new middle and high schools utilizing SHP’s signature Start With Hello program. The goal of the program is to teach students, in grades 6 through 12, how to minimize social isolation, empathize with others, and create a more inclusive and connected school culture. The Start With Hello program is designed with sustainability in mind, using SHP’s Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) Promise Clubs, professional learning series, and one-to-one coaching and tailored supports. These early intervention and prevention measures empower students, and adults, to help keep schools and communities safe.