MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. -- Ella Van Heusen gets lonely sometimes.
Today the 11th-grader at Madeira Beach Fundamental School is sharing her feelings with classmates.
It turns out, they get lonely, too.
“I feel more alone in a crowd,” Ella tells them as the class sits in a circle. “If people don’t acknowledge me, I feel more left out.”
This week Ella, her classmates and schools all across Pinellas County will take the Sandy Hook Promise. The program aims to stem gun violence in schools by having students be kinder to each other, reach out to lonely students and talk about their feelings.
Kids will take part in various discussions and activities, including making “Start With Hello” shirts which urges kids to reach out to classmates.
Principal Chris Ateek says his school encourages inclusively all the time, but having the Sandy Hook Promise is a good reminder.
“That’s our intent, to try and lift them up every day,” says Ateek. “School might be the best place kids have in their lives. You don’t always know where they’re coming from.”
Hillsborough County students took the Sandy Hook Promise earlier this year. Pasco County Schools also have a kindness initiative.
Ella says being kind is actually kind of fun.
“It doesn’t even have to be hello,” Ella says. “It can be, ‘Hey, man, I really like your shirt.’”