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Jesse’s Mom Scarlett Lewis: Spreading ‘Choose Love Movement’ From Home To Entire Communities

Published: December 28, 2018 at 07:45 am

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Sandy Hook’s Scarlett Lewis, who is honoring her late son and 12/14 victim through the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, is taking an initiative she has already seen successfully launched in various school systems and more recently in individual homes to the next logical place — entire communities.

“As I’m traveling around the country talking with anybody who will listen,” she said, “I meet mayors, police chiefs, presidents of PTAs and PTOs, business leaders, and school superintendents. They all say to me ‘How can we be part of this movement? We are all responsible for our children’s safety.’ That’s one of the things I learned after my son was murdered in his first grade classroom. When I dropped him off that day, I was responsible for his safety.”

Ahead of an appearance at the White House just before Christmas, where she was recognized for contributing to a new national school safety report, Ms Lewis told The Newtown Bee that she had recently launched a revised program to provide families a social and emotional intelligence program at home.

That program uses the Choose Love Formula — “Courage + Forgiveness + Gratitude + Compassion-in-Action = Choosing Love” — to educate parents on emotional intelligence and how building character values can help prevent future mass shootings.

The goal of Choose Love At Home is to provide families with the knowledge, attitude, and skills they need to choose love in any situation. Choosing a loving thought over an angry thought is an empowering choice that can transform the world into a safer, more peaceful, and loving place.

“This is a no-cost video-based program of 14 short, fun videos for parents and caregivers at home, so they can be on the same page and speaking the same language as their kids while learning the same skills and practicing them themselves as well as with their kids when they are not in school,” she said. “I have an incredible team who are all parents, almost 100 people, back when we first got the program launched a few years ago. This is the same group who came together for the Choose Love At Home program.”

Three Words

Ms Lewis previously shared that days prior to the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Jesse wrote three words on his chalkboard at home: “Nurturing Healing Love.” She said these words are not only a reminder that “even though we can’t always choose what happens, we can always choose how we respond, and we can always respond in love,” but they have also become the cornerstone of the Choose Love Movement.

A note about the program from Ms Lewis relates that, “Jesse faced his fear in his final act of love on December 14, 2012, when he stood up to the shooter and saved nine of his classmates’ lives before losing his own. We all have the potential to cultivate the courage that Jesse showed that day. He performed the ultimate act of love, laying down his life for his friends.”

Ms Lewis believes that social and emotional learning (SEL) is the only solution that addresses the root cause of violence that we are experiencing in our society. The Choose Love Formula is based on the foundation, concepts, and skills of SEL, which have been substantiated by 30 years of research, and is informed by current brain research and neuroscience.

Ms Lewis said up until recently, school districts concentrated on “external measures like active shooter protocol, armed and unarmed school resource officers, single point entries, door locks, bulletproof glass, and other things.

“However, none of that addresses the cause as to why a child would want to come in and harm themselves or someone else,” she said. “But SEL cultivates safety from the inside out by teaching them how to have healthy relationships, deep and meaningful connections, how to manage their emotions, and how to be resilient to the issues we know they are going to face in life.”

Ms Lewis said that by following the formula, it helps create better self-awareness and management skills, social awareness, improved relationship skills, responsible decision-making skills, enhanced self-control, and positive intention.

The concept was so appealing to New Hampshire Governor Christopher Sununu that he recently agreed to direct SEL be adopted, “as part of their statewide school safety initiative and used our program as the backbone of support.”

“I’m hoping other states follow suit,” Ms Lewis said. “Governor Sununu was actually the first governor to release his own statewide school safety initiative, and he focused on SEL as part of school safety. Schools must have both external and internal safety measures — proactive prevention that includes SEL.”

Ms Lewis said this was also something the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission came up with after their extensive two-year research into how something like Sandy Hook could have happened and what can be done to ensure it does not happen again.

“A comprehensive, year-long social and emotional learning program that is taught with fidelity,” she said. “This can benefit every single one of us. I saw the message Jesse left us on that kitchen chalkboard and knew instantly that if the shooter was able to give and receive nurturing, healing love, the tragedy would have never happened.”

Myriad SEL Benefits

In the three decades-plus of research, Ms Lewis said scientists have determined that students and others who are introduced to SEL “get better grades and test scores, achieve higher attendance and graduation rates, experience less anxiety, fewer behavioral issues, and [SEL] is statistically proven to reduce bullying.

“But also later in life, kids who have had SEL in kindergarten have less substance abuse, less mental illness, less anger and violence, less incarceration, even [lower] divorce rates as adults,” she said. “SEL is also one of the top things employers look for. Employees with SEL education are more productive, they work better in groups, they are more creative and better problem solvers.”

She said to have the biggest impact, SEL needs to be taught in the classroom, in the whole school, in the home, and in the community.

“This is the second version of the program — the first was much more intensive and had much longer videos,” Ms Lewis said. “This one has shorter videos— very powerful — great downloads, and calendars you can put up with choose love ideas you can use every day. This program aims to help people thoughtfully respond with love in any situation, circumstance, or interaction.

“Once you have the tools, adversity and negative situations are opportunities for growth,” Ms Lewis added. “When we react with anger, hatred, or resentment, we’re giving our personal power away, becoming victims, and we are not adding value — but when we choose love, we take our power back.”

To learn about the Choose Love at Home and Choose Love For Communities programs and other aspects of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, visit jesselewischooselove.org.

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