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Starting student conversations about mental health, with a simple 'Hello'

Medina Valley ISD students seek to manage loneliness and social isolation.

CASTROVILLE, Texas — School safety is top of mind for many after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde. Fortifying school infrastructure has been the focus for many. 

But at Medina Valley High School, the students are taking charge of an effort focused on mental health.

“’Hello’ can basically bring joy to anyone,” said Medina Valley junior Tanith Chappie. “People that usually aren't noticed within our school or community.”

Students at Medina Valley High are investing in the power of words. Well, really just one word.

“’Start With Hello’ is a youth violence prevention program, it was created by the Sandy Hook Foundation,” said junior and Student Council member Manny Ramirez.

Students started training in the Start with Hello program, which is focused on alleviating loneliness and social isolation, at the beginning of the summer. They were spurred into action by the May shooting at Robb. 

"After Uvalde, we had a lot of kids who were really, really close have family members out that way,” said Student Council cosponsor Janis Mack. “And so they came to us, and they're like, 'We want to help.'"

The school just finished Start With Hello Week. Along with the words of encouragement and connection filling the air, posters and artwork covered walls and windows, spilling reminders that their peers aren't alone in their struggles, whatever those struggles may be.

"Most people look down when they walk, either because they're looking at their phone, or they just don't want to look up and say hi to people," Chappie said.

"The first week of school, we put up a mental health poster. The mental health poster was not only for students, but it was also for teachers."

Some students, like Chappie, hope that word will continue to spread years from now. 

"I'm hoping that, after I graduate and I come back to the school, that this program is still going really strong,” Chappie said. “And that it starts spreading to other schools. That it's not just a Medina Valley thing."

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