As the tragedy of Newtown continues to resonate in the consciousness of the nation, efforts were undertaken in Greenwich schools and elsewhere to provide support for and connect to the community struggling with after effects.
Greenwich Remembers and GHS Connects
The last Greenwich Board of Education meeting of 2012 began with a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of Newtown, CT.
Much of the beginning of the meeting, held at Greenwich High School, was focused on the tragedy, which GHS Headmaster Chris Winters said “shook us to our core.”
During the school welcome, Winters reminded the Board that one of two primary goals at GHS is “to increase student connectedness." He explained that "our belief is that if students are involved through clubs or athletics, known by teachers and engaged, then they will be better prepared to handle the turbulent years of adolescence.”
The headmaster gave an example of "a high level" of connectedness as a “student initiated idea” on how to honor the Newtown victims. On December 18, the one acre Student Center was standing room only filled with “2700 students and 400 staff members” that as Winters stepped to the microphone, was transformed from "noisy curiosity and excitement” to one of “silence and complete respect.”
Click here to watch the GHS Newtown Remembrance
In acknowledging the GHS staff, who Winters stated are struggling through the tragedy, he read from a letter from a parent to her childrens’ teachers which Winters said “summarizes what parents feel.”
The mother of 4 wrote that two of her children attend GHS and she sought to express her appreciation for the “time, effort and love” that teachers put forth and that she simply wanted to acknowledge “how grateful parents are for the role (teachers) play.”
Following Winters' school welcome, the GHS student government representatives Brad Kim (Senior Class President) and Jonathan Mulhrad (Student Government President) also “somberly acknowledged” the events.
Mulhrad stated that “its impact on our school has been unquantifiable” and that the students were in the process of “developing ideas” for other “multiple efforts” in response to the event.
Cathy Delhanty, President of the Greenwich Education Association, stated that she was standing as “a proud representative of teachers.” Delhanty admitted “we may have thought we were ready to deal with crisis,” however the Newtown tragedy as had an “enormous ripple effect to all of us in the trenches.”
During the PTA Council comments, President Lisa Beth Savitz explained that the "essence of PTA, of teaching, of parenting, is protecting children and ensuring they flourish." Like others who spoke, Savitz spoke of the efforts of parents who "are channeling the anguish to practical ends, in individual actions, through PTA unit projects, together as a Council, with the Connecticut PTSA, and as part of the National PTA."
"These efforts are threefold: outreach to those affected directly, helping children and adults here cope with their distress, and preventative measures in this District and beyond. We anticipate many productive discussions about safety and mental health, but these are in the future. At this moment, our hearts are with our neighbors in Newtown, not at a Board of Education Meeting."
Snowflakes For Children
Nearly two weeks later, efforts are still being made to provide support for Newtown. One highly popular such effort is the creation and collection of hand-made snowflakes for Sandy Hook Elementary School. In a email message sent over the weekend from the CT PTSA office, thanks was expressed for the strong response.
"We know that each snowflake represents the emotional outreach of the person making it. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from around not just the country but the world. At this time, we have enough beautiful snowflakes to blanket the community of Newtown. Therefore, with regret we must close the snowflake project to further donations. Please take this idea and your snowflakes and create a winter wonderland of your own in your community as a show of solidarity for our Newtown families."
Support Newtown's Project Eagle
The CT PTSA office also shared a message from the PTA of the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"On behalf of the Sandy Hook Elementary School PTA, we would like to thank everyone for their contributions of snowflakes. These wonderfully artistic and heartfelt creations will be used to decorate the halls of Sandy Hook School at Chalk Hill, as well as other community locations around Newtown."
"For those of you who would like to do more to honor the memory of our students and staff, we encourage schools to consider adopting Sandy Hook Elementary School's Project Eagle community service effort and adapting it locally. Project Eagle is a group that was formed in 2011 under the direction of Principal Dawn Hochsprung."
"The intent was, and continues to be, finding ways for our elementary school students to engage in service efforts that help those in need, especially children. Together, this group of students and parents has embraced initiatives including a book drive to replenish classroom shelves, the creation of original works of art for the children's wing of a local hospital, Earth Day recycling drives, a Lego collection for a family counseling center, a concert for residents of a senior center, holiday gifts for a local women's shelter, and a pajama drive for victims of Hurricane Sandy."