Students and staff at Steele Canyon High School received the national grand prize from the Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) Monday for standing up against gun violence, cyberbullying and teen suicide.
School officials say this was for the second annual Say Something Call-to-Action Week. The school won first place in a national challenge
Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of SHP and the mother of six-year-old Dylan Hockley who was killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newton, Connecticut in December 2012, hosted the private assembly at the school at 11:15 a.m., according to the school.
"Today is about awarding Steel Canyon High School with a fantastic honor. They are the number one winners of our Say Something program across the country," said Hockley.
When Hockley spoke about her slain son at the school assembly, students listened in enthralled silence. Later she said working with the students is one of the most rewarding experiences for her.
"That is incredibly rewarding and I truly believe that this generation of middle and high schoolers that we have right now are going to create a new culture of empathy and kindness and looking out for each other that we really need," said Hockley.
As part of the grand prize, the school will receive $2,500 of Promise Club Seed Money, a Say Something plaque and appreciation from SHP's social media channels.
"It's important because it does save lives in my opinion," said Trevor Kantz, another student at the school who was an active participant in the events. "Our motto here at Steele Canyon is take care of each other, take care of yourself and take care of this place."
English teachers Jennifer Serban and Jillian West lead the program along with 80 student ambassadors, who took charge of planning the events from Oct. 24 to 28, said school officials.
For the SHP challenge, students and staff promoted the Say Something Call-to-Action week by organizing a variety of activities and educational events. School officials say they created posters, decorated the campus, ran lunchtime activities, created and produced videos for school-wide broadcasts which encouraged critical dialogue in the classrooms and planned dress-up days.
"We're pretty much just teaching people how to be open minded and see things they normally wouldn't look out for," said Kasandra Marzec, a student at the school who created an Instagram account for Say Something week.
Staff also sent a letter to parents explaining the program and promoting conversation within the family. Moreover, the school launched an Instagram campaign and competition to engage students via social media.
"It creates more comfort within our school to have students reach out to teachers and reach out to other people instead of hiding the truth," said Marzec.
All students were required to participate in at least one Say Something activity throughout the week, according to the school.
Four hundred students and local community leaders were expected to attend the ceremony. School officials say the high school also received an honorable mention in last year's call-to-action week, maintaining the Say Something program throughout the year.
"I think that it's definitely made a difference here," said Krantz.