Panther Pride was on display Tuesday when members of Sandy Hook Promise presented Platt High School with a national award for its student-led school safety initiatives.
“Some of you know exactly why we’re here today but some of you don’t,” junior Angel Hart told several hundred students in the Platt auditorium. “Throughout the year, we’ve had some amazing students working tirelessly to help make our school what we always hope it will be: A safe and accepting place for everyone to work and learn.”
Sandy Hook Promise was started by family members of those killed in the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The nonprofit’s mission is to “honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation by providing programs and practices that protect children from gun violence.”
Platt was one of thousands of schools nationwide that hosted activities during the organization’s Say Something Week, held from Feb. 25 to March 1. The campaign encourages students to “say something” to a trusted adult when they believe a peer might engage in violent behavior, self harm or drug use.
“Platt is doing some amazing work,” said Marykay Wishneski, national program coordinator who lives in Sandy Hook. “Congratulations for winning the grand prize. The competition was tough but you won it. ”
Principal Robert Montemurro and Hart accepted the plaque from Wishneski. The school also received a stipend allowing students to attend the Sandy Hook Promise Youth Leadership summit.
The Say Something Week activities were planned and run by students and supervised by faculty advisors Drew Blythe and Marisa Volo. The activities included a “Say Something” poster signed by students, a “Shred your Stress” exercise, and expressive arts after school.
Students also trained school staff on the Say Something protocol and made signs reading “I am a Trusted Adult” for teachers to hang outside classrooms.
Hart’s involvement in Sandy Hook Promise began last year following the Parkland, Florida school shooting. As a sophomore, she organized a walkout demonstration to pressure lawmakers to take action to prevent future school incidents.
Hart formed the SAVE Promise Club chapter with the help of the advisors and members of the Student Senate, who were also honored Tuesday.
“I’m proud to be able to work with these amazing young people,” Volo said.
Montemurro told the crowd the school was proud of students who “showed leadership, creativity and passion” and left “an everlasting impact on Platt High School.”
The students and teachers also received praise from Assistant School Superintendent Miguel Cardona, who said the faculty was giving the students skills that are just as valuable as SAT scores.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati told the students their achievements reach beyond the high school.
“By not leaving your fellow students aside, you have made your mark,” Scarpati said. “You have made an impact on the community”
Sandy Hook Promise managing director Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan in the Sandy Hook shooting, praised the students via video.
“Our work does not stop with this award,” Hart said. “This work will continue throughout the years starting again this August when we come back to school.”
By Mary Ellen Godin, Record-Journal staff