ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Making sure everyone is included is a way of life at Azalea Elementary school in St. Petersburg. And now, it’s being noticed on a national level.
On Wednesday, students and staff celebrated big time.
“It means everything,” said Mike Rebman, the Principal at Azalea Elementary school.
That’s because they are one of three schools in the southeast region to win the “start with hello” award from Sandy Hook for creating a more inclusive and connected community.
“The Sandy Hook promise, the organization, their promise is our promise. We want students connected not isolated,” said Rebman.
Katie Weaver knows what it’s like to be bullied and picked on. It’s why she’s actively changing the narrative and greeting other students in the morning plus reaching out to kids who are alone.
“Knowing that I’ve been through that, I want to make sure people don’t have to go through the same thing I did,” said Weaver.
Empathy is what she and fellow fifth-grader Maddyn Sapp teach others. They are both part of the group “SAVE” which is part safety patrol, part promise club.
“A lot of kids are going through a tough time,” said Sapp. “I’ve gone through a tough time before with my family and I just want everyone to feel happy and to never give up.”
That message is one Rebman thinks kids need to be taught from a young age.
“Your manners and your way of being a great person will carry you throughout life,” he said. “That early learning will carry them through. If we build a foundation which is what we need to do at elementary school, we build that foundation early so it carries over.”