GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Schools across the country are trying to address bullying every day.
In at least two schools in Guilford County, addressing the challenge starts with, "Hello."
Northeast Guilford Middle School encouraged students to step outside their comfort zones this week to help at least one other student feel included.
“All week we're doing a school-wide challenge to encourage the staff and the students to eat with someone different. Whether the person is quiet, they eat alone or just someone different than their normal group of friends,” school social worker Courtney Hall said.
Antasia Hacker and Abigail Keku are two eighth-grade students who encouraged their classmates to connect with new people during lunch.
“I like trying to make new friends because I'm still kind of searching for a best friend myself,” Hacker said.
“It helps them to know that somebody cares about them,” Keku said.
Hall and LaSonja Lane, a counselor at Northeast Guilford Middle School, say having the students reach out to one another can create a more inclusive environment and help prevent bullying.
“Many times we find that students who bully have been bullied,” Lane said.
Allen Jay Elementary took another approach toward teaching students how to respect others.
One day this week, students and staff were encouraged to find a "buddy" and dress alike.
“If a child feels accepted, they’re going to want to be a part, and they’re going to want to study harder, they’re going to want to do more, they're going to want to be involved. The more that they can be involved in school, the more they can kind of forget about what's going on around them,” Allen Jay counselor Marta Ramirez said.
The inclusion activities at both schools were part of the district’s participation in "Start With Hello' week.
It’s an initiative through Sandy Hook Promise.
That organization works to bring attention to social isolation.
Friday, students and staff at Northeast Guilford Middle School wore green in support of that cause.