How often do we say “hello” to those we encounter along our paths each day? On my walks, about half of the people I greet respond with a smile, nod, or “hello.” It could be that the other half don’t hear me because they are deep in thought, or perhaps I take them by surprise because it’s not expected that we connect in this way. Whatever the reason I am not deterred and will always make a point to say “hello” because every individual needs to be recognized; every one of us matters. In fact, our youth need to know they are treasured, and acknowledging them assures them that they are a part of our community.
Last spring a safety expert from IMReady assessed all of our campuses, and one of the primary recommendations is that we approach all visitors without a badge and invite them to come to the office to check-in. While the safety expert referred to this as “challenging unknown persons” in our Culture of We, it means inviting every person to be acknowledged on campus. Too often people pass by others as if they don’t exist; this detracts from our ability to build community. Regretfully, this strange phenomenon of self-enclosure that many of us experience can become a habitual way of life amongst our teens. Eliminating isolationism builds connection, which increases security and safety at school.
This week, at MHS, our students are taking charge of building a Culture of We, starting with “hello.” Our leadership students, along with MHS Activities Director Jerell Maneja and Principal Francis Rojas, have pledged to follow the Sandy Hook Promise. Each day they will practice new habits of connection that will instill the mindset that all students belong, and no one is alone. Practicing safety at school is more than drills and greater than fences; it’s about ensuring that every person on campus is valued. How do we do that? Start with “hello,” listen to one another, and walk together in community.