Students Reflect on SU’s Start With Hello Week

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From September 27 through October 1, the Townsend Harris Student Union held “Start with Hello Week,” a program created and organized by the non-profit charity Sandy Hook Promise to focus on building an inclusive and empathetic culture within schools. 

Since the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Sandy Hook Promise has fought to keep students and communities safe from gun violence and school shootings. The organization has developed specific programs and legislation to “know the signs” in order to prevent students from pulling away from society, hindering their learning or social development and potentially causing them to hurt themselves or others. 

In response to reopening and the strong possibility that some students may feel isolated after the pandemic, the SU decided to participate in this program to make Harrisites feel more welcomed in their return to school.

Each day contained a different theme for students to partake in. 

On the first day, Mix-N-Mingle Monday, the SU encouraged students to sit with someone new at lunch, on the bus, or in class. Junior Shirooba Chandrakumar said, “During lunch, I sat with a guy that I had Pre-Calc with but never talked to. We sit together at lunch every day now.”

Talk Tuesday followed, inspiring students to greet someone in class that they do not know or have not reached out to in a while. On Wear Green Wednesday, students were encouraged to wear green to promote unity and inclusivity, as green is a symbolic color of the Sandy Hook Promise.

The SU promoted the Wear Green Wednesday event with a raffle incentive for a chance to win a prize. Students were instructed to see an SU representative during their lunch band to receive a raffle ticket. Three winners were announced during ninth band on Wednesday over the loudspeaker. 

Junior and first place winner (and brother of this article’s author) David Babayev jokingly told his friends that he’d won when they announced the winners, only to realize he really had won. “When I actually saw the numbers on my ticket, I could not believe it. I loved wearing green to promote the message of inclusivity and was happy to receive my vintage Townsend shirts,” he said. 

“When I first heard about Hello Week, I thought it was such a great idea to try and get people to make new friends and improve mental health in a new environment. When I won the raffle, I was excited because I didn’t expect to win, but the prizes were nice,” said sophomore Gabby Renzi, who won third place.

On Thursday and Friday, the Student Union and the Student Leadership team sold friendship bracelets as part of an effort to promote the Sandy Hook Promise’s message of reaching out to others to combat loneliness. Students were able to purchase them and send them to people they know or want to connect with. They were sold for $2 each or three bracelets for $5. These bracelets were later distributed at the end of the week. 

Junior and Student Leader Angelina McCabe said “it was really fun seeing the smiles on people’s faces as we gave them their bracelets. My best friend and I bought them for each other and I thought they were very cute.”

The Classic also spoke to SU Vice President Zarif Rahman. “We wanted students to make sure they felt welcome. After a year of being virtual, we wanted to make sure not only the freshmen felt included in our school but the sophomores too– who didn’t have that same in-person experience with stuff like the pep rally that normally brings out Townsend Harris spirit.” He added that his favorite day of the week was Wear Green Wednesday because “it was really cool to see the amount of Harrisites who wore green to promote inclusivity.” 

“It is my hope that the Student Union continues to plan more events that help bring Harrisites together this year,” Zarif concluded.