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Sandy Hook's 'Say Something' Program Provides National Model For Helping

Mark Barden, father of a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting, embraces student leaders at Danbury High School who introduced the Say Something program at their school this fall.
Mark Barden, father of a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting, embraces student leaders at Danbury High School who introduced the Say Something program at their school this fall. Photo Credit: Karen Tensa

NEWTOWN, Conn. — With mass shootings and bullying tragedies becoming an alarming norm in the United States, Newtown’s Sandy Hook Promise is fostering rays of hope across the country with its Say Something Program.

Born of the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, SHP works to transform grief and sadness into positive change and protection. Six educators and 20 first-graders were victims of that massacre, which occurred three years ago today, Dec. 14.

The Say Something program highlights the need for all citizens to look after each other with care and concern, speaking up if someone seems to be a risk to himself or others. Hallmarks of the campaign are “look for signals and threats, telling a trusted adult and acting immediately.”

Statistics show that in 80 percent of school shootings, the shooter had told someone about their plans.

In Say Something, students are asked to be aware when a friend shows signs of depression or social isolation.

When a friend threatened to kill herself, Danbury High School senior Natalia Szurawski spoke up and the friend got the help she needed.

Inspired to help others, she brought the Say Something campaign to Danbury High School, the largest in Connecticut.

“We all joined together to start this initiative because we want gun violence to stop,” she said at an October school assembly. “We all have our own personal connections to this cause.”

In November, SHP National Field Director Paula Fynboh addressed an anti-bullying workshop for teachers and others in Youngstown, Ohio.

“Across every school and every community, there are people who feel invisible and alone, and they go through each day suffering,” Fynboh said. “We can change that by learning how to reach out and connect.”

And SHP efforts are having an effect: Last month in Ohio, a student told a guidance counselor about a fellow student making threats to bomb the school and enlist another student to kill those fleeing the scene.

Because she had been trained through SHP’s Say Something program, she quickly took action to secure school’s safety. The suspect was arrested.

“I wouldn’t have known about this unless that student had said something to me,” the guidance counselor is quoted as saying on the SHP website. “Say Something demonstrates the important role young people play in looking out for each other and in being the ears and eyes of their school. It also demonstrates why it is so important to listen to young people who come to us for help.”

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