EAST GREENWICH – For the past year, a local teen has been playing her part in encouraging others to “choose love.”
The Choose Love Movement, founded by Scarlett Lewis after her son Jesse was tragically killed in the Sandy Hook Shooting, has worked with schools across the world – including Cole Middle School – to foster social and emotional learning.
“When I heard her story, I knew I wanted to help this organization as much as I could,” said eighth grader Mia Daley, who is currently organizing a virtual 5k race to help further support these ends.
Her involvement with the organization began thanks to guidance counselors and members of the student council who have embraced the curriculum, as well as her mother, who is a first grade teacher in the district and already had a focus on social-emotional learning.
“I really found it through my family and my school,” Daley explained.
At the time of the Sandy Hook Shooting, Daley was 6 years old – the same age as Jesse Lewis and many of the other students who lost their lives that day. The only thing she remembers from that day was her mother coming to pull her out of school as soon as the bell rang, and “really, really briefly” telling her what had happened.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy of December 2012, regarded as one of the most one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, claimed the lives of 20 students and six teachers. Scarlett Lewis’ son, Jesse, has been credited with saving nine other lives after running into the hallway and yelling for others to run.
At the time, Daley had been shielded from news reports and social media postings, but a lot has changed in the past eight years.
“When I went to middle school, I saw the reality of what the world is – especially with school shootings,” Daley said.
The Parkland shooting – which claimed 17 lives at Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 – immediately jumps to mind for Daley in most recent memory, though the statistics from that year alone are horrifying. According to Education Week, a journal covering education in the United States, there were 23 incidents in 2018, and 113 people were killed or injured in a school shooting. Since most school years are only 180 days, this breaks down to about one shooting every eight days.
Numbers like these, and the tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are the reason Scarlett Lewis founded the Choose Love Movement. She has gone into homes, schools, communities and workplaces, to share a program that teaches children and adults how to thoughtfully respond with love in any situation, handle adversity, and have courageous conversations.
“The social-emotional learning curriculum is about positive mindset, because the shooter who did go into the Sandy Hook Elementary School building had a very negative mindset – which influenced the shooting,” Daley explained. “Scarlett, our founder’s message is that she’s helping kids like the shooter.”
In addition to embracing a positive mindset, the social-emotional curriculum also teaches mindfulness. Some of the activities are as simple as just breathing, according to Daley, but everything that’s encompassed in the curriculum is meant to teach children how to manage their emotions, feel connected and have healthy relationships.
In order to bring this message to as many people as possible, Daley is helping to organize a virtual 5k race, scheduled to take place next month.
From Feb. 21 - 28, Choose Love RI will be hosting a virtual 5k run – but participants can feel free to walk or bike, too. And it’s fun that the entire family can enjoy, according to Daley, for a small $20 entry fee.
Participants are asked to set a goal of $50 for their fundraiser, but there’ll also be plenty of finishers who’ll be walking away with prizes – as well as a gift bag.
Anyone and everyone from Rhode Island is welcomed and encouraged to take part in the race, according to Daley.
“You’re helping a really great organization that is helping so many people across the world,” Daley said. “The Choose Love Movement is in 111 countries, so you’d be helping so many people.”
“It’s also a really, really great way to spend some time with your family and get involved in the community,” she added.