Madeira Beach students combat violence with kindness

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Not a sound could be heard inside the gymnasium at Madeira Beach Fundamental School during a presentation by Nicole Hockley, whose son died in the Sandy Hook massacre. 

Seventh and eighth graders participating in Hockley's Sandy Hook Promise program hung on her every word.

“Dylan was only six when he was killed at Sandy Hook school,” Hockley told the crowd. “He would be in seventh grade right now, had he lived.”

Hockley is the co-founder of the Sandy Hook Promise, which aims to end school violence and promote kindness among students.

“I don’t want other parents to ever be in my position,” Hockley said.

Madeira Beach Fundamental takes part in a campaign started by the Sandy Hook Promise called Start with Hello. 

The campaign teaches children that small actions, such as making someone feel included, can change the direction of someone’s life. Hockley says many school shooters were said to be loners. She hopes a student headed down the wrong path could benefit from something as simple as a "hello."

“What we are doing is teaching kids how to start with 'hello,' how to unlock that power within themselves, to be compassionate and kind, to recognize the signs of someone who is chronically isolated and needs a little bit more help,” Hockley said.

Out of more than 3,000 schools that have been in her program, Madeira Beach Fundamental is being recognized for participating in the Start with Hello campaign year-round.

“These kids are the best,” said Principal Chris Ateek. “I have seen kids come out of their shells.”

Hockley says the work she does in schools nationwide not only honors the life of her son but also: “Ensures that these senseless tragedies don’t happen anymore and doing whatever I can to prevent school shootings going forward.”

The Madeira Beach Fundamental student leaders in the Start with Hello program will also get to attend a Sandy Hook Promise conference that focuses on leadership to share what they learn with their friends.