It was decided to engage the students of EDSS in building connections with a Just Say Hi campaign. Four different coloured buttons were made with the “Say Hi” logo on them. A budget was created from local donations and a United Way grant to fund the campaign. A prize package was put together, and if a student collected all four buttons by the end of the campaign, they could enter their ballot in the draw for the iPod designated for their grade. The black buttons were to be distributed to all students on the first day of the campaign. A local radio personality attended our campaign opening assembly, and the students were invited to say “hi!” to anyone and start the campaign.
This “Say Hi!” campaign had been in the planning stages for over a year, and the start date was picked months in advance. The kick-off assembly was held on the Monday morning and the buttons were to be handed out to all students on Tuesday morning in home room. Tragically, the murders at Virginia Tech occurred on the Monday afternoon. It was an unfortunate coincidence, but the students understood even more the importance of our campaign. I went on the PA system during announcements and said that “this campaign will never cure the pain and suffering that has just happened at Virginia Tech, but it is part of the solution so that individuals do not feel so alienated from their community that they are driven to extreme behaviours that affect us all.”
One week later, downtown businesses and municipal locations such as the library and pool in the community were given posters and blue buttons to distribute. If a student entered a business with a poster and said “Hi!”, they would receive a blue button. The next two Thursdays just before school started, senior citizens greeted our students at our five main entrances distributing green buttons to students who said “Hi!” to them. In the final week of the campaign, the town councilors, mayor, fire chief, police chief and ambulance reps came to the school at lunch time to be introduced and to greet the students and distribute the maroon buttons.
The close of the four-week campaign was an afternoon assembly for the students and an evening presentation for parents and the community by motivational speaker, Mark Scharenbroich. Mark brought his “building connections” message to the students and was impressed with the simplicity of the campaign. He has presented at schools all over North America for the past 20 years and said that this was the best campaign to connect kids that he had seen in his experience.
Evaluations of the campaign were collected from participants and they were very positive, especially from our senior citizens who participated at the school. One student summed it up with, “I met a guy through Say Hi! and now we are dating, and going to the same university. He said “Hi!” to me one day in the halls and we haven’t stopped since!” A fellow staff member at EDSS stopped me over 8 months later and stated that she felt the campaign had a lasting effect on our school. She felt that the students “still say hi to each other because of that button campaign.” The Say Hi campaign made a lasting connection in our school and community.