Mark Barden lived every parent’s worst nightmare but has turned that nightmare into hope.
On the morning of Dec. 14, 2012 Barden’s 7-year-old son, Daniel, was among the 26 children and staff that Adam Lanza killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in one of the most horrific school shootings in American history.
Since he lost his son in the worst way possible Barden has made it his life’s mission to try to prevent another tragedy like Sandy Hook from ever happening again.
Barden co-founded Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Barden, with the help of Attorney General Maura Healey, is bringing the program to the Garfield Elementary School. The partnership between Sandy Hook Promise, the Attorney General’s Office and Revere Schools will provide mental health and violence prevention programming to the school.
Last Wednesday Barden and Healey visited the Garfield and held a roundtable discussion with students at the school. Students at the school will take part in three different programs that are part of Sandy Hook Promise.
Barden said he’s hoping to train students here and across the state on how to be an “upstander” in their school and community, as well as how to create a culture of inclusiveness.
At the Garfield students will take part in the Sandy Hook Promise’s Start With Hello, Say Something, and SOS Signs of Suicide training.
Barden told Garfield students last week that these three programs can help prevent violence before it occurs.
At the roundtable discussion Healey told students that the ‘Start With Hello’ component of the program is a very basic technique to help other kids feel less isolated.
“How do you get at the kid who’s left alone at the lunch table, or the kid who’s being bullied or the kid who’s feeling isolated?” she said.
Healey said by just saying hello to a fellow students that may be alone or look down in the dumps may have a long lasting impact on their day.
The mission of Sandy Hook Promise is to provide programs and practices that protect children and prevent the senseless, tragic loss of life. Over the past five years, Sandy Hook Promise has trained over 3.5 million adults and students across the country and is deeply committed to preventing violence in schools. Sandy Hook Promise is already working in Massachusetts to train students in evidence-based violence prevention program
The program got a boost last year through a $1 million grant through the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance’s School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program, which is providing funding to implement training and education on preventing violence and effectively responding to related mental health crises.
The expansion of the program to the Garfield is part of this grant.
“With Sandy Hook Promise, our office applied for this grant to help students learn and grow in environments without violence,” said Healey. “We now have $1 million dollars to invest in mental health training, suicide prevention, and school-based violence prevention programs, and to keep our students safe.”
This grant funding allows the Healey’s Office and Sandy Hook Promise to significantly increase the number of students and educators trained in evidence-based programs.
“The goal is to prevent school violence by focusing on training students and educators to identify the warning signs of violence and take action before a tragedy occurs,” said Healey.
Throughout the school year at the Garfield, Healey’s Office and Sandy Hook Promise will collaborate to train educators and students over the course of three years in the three “Know the Signs” programs that will teach youth and adults how to identify, assess, and intervene before a young person hurts themselves or others.
Those three Know the Signs programs are:
•Signs of Suicide is a universal, school-based prevention program for middle school and high school students, which uses a train-the-trainer model for personnel and students to identify the warning signs and symptoms of depression, suicide and self-injury and take action when needed.
•Say Something is a violence prevention and education program, with a focus on social media, that teaches students in Grades 6-12 how to recognize the warning signs and signals of individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others, and to “say something” to a trusted adult before the person hurts themselves or others.
•Start With Hello is a violence prevention program for students in Grades 5-12 that teaches students how to be more inclusive and connected to one another.
“All you students started this discussion knowing that it is the little things that make a difference in people’s lives,” said Barden last week. “That’s what this (Sandy Hook Promise) is all about. Take Start with Hello. We have learned that something as simple as walking down the hallway and looking another student in the the and engaging them, letting them they are there, that they exist is sometimes all someone needs during the day.”