The Sweethearts & Heroes student empowerment and empathy activation program was welcomed back to Elwood Middle School on Dec. 1, bringing a crucial message of hope and a gameplan for anti-bullying.
Co-founder Tom Murphy worked with students in a morning assembly, focusing on “Empathetic Fitness” and H.O.P.E. (Hold On. Possibilities Exist.), and using five specific “Bully Buttons” that combine to form a call to action against bullying. For the last decade, Murphy has presented what he calls “‘the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of bullying” to more than two million students in several hundred schools nationwide. This year, Sweethearts & Heroes is focusing on human skills such as empathy and compassion, seeking to help students with their social and emotional health.
“Just talking about awareness doesn’t fix anything,” Murphy said. “We give each student a plan to activate their innate superpowers — to empower them to help others that are struggling with bullying or other challenges that all students face. Our message and strategies go way beyond bullying. We are about humanity, giving H.O.P.E. to the hopeless and making the world a better place.”
Murphy was joined by Rick Yarosh, a retired U.S. Army sergeant injured in Iraq with burns over most of his body, who offered the students a message about overcoming adversity and turning a negative situation into a positive one.
During the day’s sessions, Elwood students and teachers were also treated to Community Circle, a fairly new component of Sweethearts & Heroes based on the ancient ritual of sitting in a circle to communicate and build empathy. Community Circle and other aspects of Sweethearts & Heroes serve to complement existing Elwood Middle School programs such as the Restorative Justice Program and the Knights of the Round Table.
Sweethearts & Heroes first presented to Elwood students in November 2019.
“It’s an assembly that all of our staff still talks about,” said Principal Dr. Christina Moran. “We were very excited to have Tom and his team back to further support our students and staff in our Community Circle work. We believe that when people truly get to know each other, they are kinder and forge deeper relationships. The act of building relationships amongst our students and staff is the goal of our work to help support the development of adolescents who are effective communicators, culturally aware, resilient, personally responsible and active citizens.”