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How One School Is Fighting the Back-to-School Blues

A campaign against loneliness that starts with a simple “hello.”

For many children, the first day back to school is incredibly scary. How will I get all that homework done, much less makes friends? But a newly established program in Wilmington, North Carolina—a program that began with a little prodding from Oprah—is trying to combat the back to school blues by simply asking children to say “hello.”

The “Just Say Hello” campaign, launched last year by Skype and O, The Oprah Magazine, wasn’t necessarily meant for children. As neurosurgeon and journalist Sanjay Gupta explained in a piece in the magazine, some professionals estimate that as many as one in five of all Americans suffer from loneliness. By “loneliness,” Gupta writes, “I mean both the the acute bouts of melancholy we all feel from time to time, as well as a chronic lack of intimacy—a yearning for someone to truly know you, get you, see you—that can leave people feeling seriously unmoored.”

The campaign offers a simple solution: Just say hi to someone you don’t know. Showing someone that you’re really interested in them in a face-to-face interaction (no cellphones involved!) could combat some of the consequences of extended isolation: depression, fatigue, irritableness, or, as some researchers have found, actual physical pain.

Now Wilmington’s Cape Fear Academy is bringing that ingenious approach to their classrooms.

"We told our kids, 'All we're asking you to do is find someone you don't know real well, or a friend you haven't connected with in a while, and just say 'hello' to them,’” teacher Carr Fullagar told AOL.

Teachers have asked students to fill out “Just Say Hello” cards with the names of those they’ve greeted. At the end of each week, the cards go up on a classroom wall, so that all can see the effects of everyday kindness.

Via Flickr user See-ming Lee

Another aspect of the school’s program: Its dedicated “buddy bench,” where kids are encouraged to sit if they ever feel lonely.

"Fortunately, we don't see a whole lot of kids sit on it every day, but when they do sit on the bench, it's really a powerful conversation that we see take place,” says Fullager.

Via Huffington Post

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