McHenry High School students launch Start With Hello campaign

Campaign seeks to share smiles, positive messages

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A simple campaign to bring more smiles to McHenry High School – West Campus captured the interest of students and staff alike, and may lead to a permanent effort to “start with hello” at school.

During the last week of September, a committee of West Campus students introduced new activities each day with the hope of making students smile.

Start With Hello week is a national campaign by Sandy Hook Promise to encourage schools to promote personal connections.

A group of West Campus students learned about the campaign at a leadership conference in the spring. Terry Fitzgibbons, associate principal at West Campus, said students approached other student groups – such as the National Honor Society, Key Club and Student Council – to recruit others to get involved.

The ideas for activities focused on what students can do to make people happy.

Those ideas blossomed into activities such as making more than 2,000 individual notes for lockers, decorating windows, handing out personalized fortune cookies and handing out smiley face tattoos, among others.

Fitzgibbons said the students created their own fortune cookie messages. The effort seemed to make a difference, committee members said.

“Someone told me the school just felt brighter,” senior Kaili Wegener said.

The initiative also included an effort to make sure no one sat alone at lunch, as well as having students sign handprints to pledge to be more friendly and welcoming. The handprints were added to a tree mural in the cafeteria.

“People have said ‘Hi’ to me who haven’t talked to me before,” senior Jodie Cone said. “If you can make five people smile, that’s better than before.”

The seniors involved in the Start With Hello committee are hoping younger students continue and even grow Start With Hello week.