Officers with the Suffolk County Sherriff’s Office paid a visit to Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School on Sept. 17 and taught third, fourth and fifth graders an important life skill: empathy. 

Administrators held three assemblies, each of which focused on teaching students how to be inclusive of their classmates simply by approaching them and saying hello. The “Start with Hello” initiative, created by Sandy Hook Promise, focuses on uniting people of different backgrounds to prevent social isolation. 

Deputy Sheriff Thomas P. Indence explained that there are three steps to follow: “See someone alone,” “reach out and help” and “start with hello.” By doing so he said that the students can help prevent bullying, violence and depression. “The person you say hello to could become your very best friend,” he said. 

Still, Deputy Sheriff Investigator Jacob Gross acknowledged that it’s hard to approach someone new and offered several tips to do so. To ease any feelings of anxiousness, he suggested that the students recall a time that they felt lonely and wanted a friend to play with. Additionally, he advised them to take a deep breath and possibly invite a friend to go with them.

To conclude the assembly, Michelle Meskin, the school’s psychologist, walked the students through an online scenario where the students had to identify a lonely student, and offer a hello, which she said can range from a high-five to a smile.