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Fitch High School hosts spirit week focused on inclusiveness

February 26, 2019 GMT

Groton — Fitch High School sophomore Ella Tiesinga, wearing a green sweater and heart-shaped green sunglasses on her head, went table to table Monday in the high school cafeteria to offer wristbands to fellow students.

“Do you want a bracelet?” she asked students and handed out the green bracelets with the message “Say Something” and “Sandy Hook Promise.”   

“I want to help everyone know they have someone to talk to,” Tiesinga said.

Fitch High School students were participating in a new Spirit Week with each day focused on a different theme — including the Sandy Hook Promise’s “Say Something” program, inclusiveness, substance abuse prevention, choosing kindness, and student empowerment — to promote unity and students looking out for students, said Assistant Principal Erin McGuire.

The week was tied to Sandy Hook Promise’s national “Say Something Call to Action Week,” Feb. 25-March 1. The “Say Something” program, from the national nonprofit focused on violence prevention, teaches students from grades sixth through 12th how to recognize the signs of at risk or violent behavior and how to tell a trusted adult, said Gayle Oko, one of the founders of Sandy Hook Promise Southeastern Connecticut, a local chapter. 

Fitch students on Monday wore green for Sandy Hook Promise, were educated on warning signs, and watched a student-directed film promoting the school’s anonymous alerts system, which allows people to anonymously report information to school officials. The school also is making sure every student has at least one go-to adult in the building, McGuire said.

Kasandra Luciano, a junior, said students created the video so people would be more comfortable using the anonymous system.

“We just hope that more students will not be scared to say something, even if it’s about themselves, or about someone else,” Luciano said. McGuire said that since implementing the anonymous alert system this year, school officials received more than 40 alerts, which allowed them to connect people with a support system and counselors.

Groton Public Schools implemented the Sandy Hook Promise this year, and the programs are reinforced each year, which makes them so valuable, said Oko. In addition to “Say Something,” students also are learning the principles of “Start with Hello,” which teaches students to reach out and include students. 

Fuquan Chapman, a junior, said that in the fall students from the Renaissance Crew, which focused on creating on a more positive school culture and climate, approached students at lunch to make sure everybody is included and no one felt left out.

The students said they want to convey the message during this Spirit Week that students should ask for help, if they need it, and know that there are people there for them and they’re not alone.

The Spirit Week started last Friday with a “Choose to Include” day that began with students holding doors for other students and high-fiving and welcoming them to school and culminated with the Unified Friendship Dance for Fitch, Stonington and Ledyard students, which National Honor Society President Casey Flax started.

School administrators, Sandy Hook Promise, Renaissance Crew, Unified Sports, More Than Words, Black Student Union, SPECTRUM, National Honor Society, and Kindness Club were among those collaborating on the spirit week.

Plans for the week include photo booths, a positive post-it note activity; Unified Basketball games; information sessions by Groton Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, Students Against Destructive Decisions, local police; voter registration; opportunities for seniors to listen to community leaders; and an after-school celebration for students and faculty on Friday.

Casey Halliwell, an English teacher, yearbook adviser and adviser to the Renaissance Crew, said the students are trailblazers who are creating change and leaving a legacy with the Spirit Week.

Student Ana Moran, a junior, said she hopes Fitch’s Spirit Week encourages other schools to hold a similar week, so those students can also feel comfortable at their schools.

Jazzlyn Henderson, a senior, said the students’ goals are to be positive and make everyone feel welcome.

Flax, a senior, said that now, more than ever, when students walk into a high school, they may feel that other people are looking at them or judging them, and therefore stay closed off.

“But as soon as one person literally opens the door, it’s like wow, we’re a lot more alike than we’re different,” she said.

k.drelich@theday.com