Ottoson “Start with Hello Week” Promotes Connection and Inclusivity

Beginning the new year with the social emotional learning program Start with Hello Week is a great way to bring young people together and foster community. Ottoson School Counselor Nanci Siegel, who works with her colleagues to coordinate the annual event, points out that the experience of COVID has left many students able to “...empathize with the feeling of isolation due to physical and social distancing.” She continues, “Loneliness is the overwhelming feeling of being left out and social isolation is not having frequent interactions with friends. Young people who feel this way may pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development, or choose to hurt themselves or others.”

Start with Hello Week combats these negative emotions by reintroducing students to the power of connection. Simple activities help students learn to reach out to each other. The goal is to create a more inclusive school environment and help the young people develop a sense of belonging.


The week of activities began in ASPIRE with a three minute video describing the purpose and benefits of the week from the perspective of students and educators across the country. Everyone was asked to put on a name tag, and all were challenged to identify three individuals they didn’t know and greet them by name.

During Positive Message Day, OMS school counselors were at a table in the lobby during lunch. Students were asked to write a positive message they would want to hear if they were having a difficult day. The messages were collected and displayed on a beautiful Wall of Positivity that everyone could enjoy. On School Spirit Day students were asked to wear the Arlington colors of maroon, gray, and/or white.

The week ended with time for reflection on how to include others. Students’ thoughts and ideas were collected and used to create word clouds that describe the places they feel a sense of belonging. These were posted on each school counselor’s Google classroom.

Start with Hello Week  is a nationwide initiative created by the Sandy Hook Promise. The Ottoson Middle School observed the week from September 19-23.