SHS Empowerment Club promotes Say Something Week


As a way to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting more than seven years ago, an organization is turning tragedy into a moment of transformation.

Sandy Hook Promise is a national nonprofit founded and led by several members whose loved ones were killed Dec. 14, 2012, at the Newtown, Connecticut, school.

It focuses on creating a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence and other harmful acts in schools and providing programs and practices that protect children from gun violence.

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“By uniting people of all beliefs and backgrounds who value the protection of children to take meaningful actions in their homes and communities, we will prevent gun violence and stop the tragic loss of life,” the organization states on its website,

One way schools across the country can make an impact is Say Something Week.

The purpose of the national call-to-action week is to celebrate students being upstanders in schools and communities by speaking up when noticing warning signs and threats of potential violence, according to the website. This year, the week was honored March 2 through 6.

Locally, Seymour High School’s Empowerment Club was tasked with leading Say Something Week for the first time.

Senior Chloe Shepherd started that club during the second semester of her junior year. She said Assistant Principal Karla Bohle asked the group to come up with ways to spread the word about Say Something Week.

Shepherd came up with information to share on the daily announcements. Abby Boyt read them in English, and Hannah Romero De Gante read them in Spanish.

The club also made signs with positive quotes on them and placed them around the school, and the group’s sponsor, Magistra Schneider, also printed off signs to hang up.

Information about mental health was placed in the boys and girls restrooms so students could read them in private, and banners were created by Owl Manufacturing and placed on the front lawn of the school.

On Wednesday, a TED talk, “I Was Almost a School Shooter,” was shown during student resource time.

“My biggest thing I wanted people to take away from this is that there are options out there,” Shepherd said of Say Something Week.

“If they need help, if they are upset or going through a mental health issue, they have options because sometimes, it feels like they are very isolated and they have nowhere to look,” she said. “If I show my fellow students there are options, you can talk to people, then hopefully, that will save them or someone else.”

Bohle said the Empowerment Club was a natural fit to get the word out because of what it stands for: Understanding the responsibility that people have to advocate for themselves.

“Keeping this place safe is something we all strive for, and so knowing the signs and the symptoms,” Bohle said. “Either the self-harm factor or the tragedy, when you trace it back, there’s always a clue, and so helping get that message out that it doesn’t hurt to say anything and that we have that civic responsibility, that’s a lot of what (the club) does. They do a lot of things to help activate that voice here at the high school.”

A lot of communication is done through technology nowadays, and Bohle said the week helps ensure students and staff know what to do if they read or hear warning signs or threats.

She said administrators deal with a lot of issues with cellphones and social media.

“We deal a lot with how to communicate appropriately and just social interactions in general,” she said. “I think it’s very much a reflection of our times because a lot of our issues start and end around a cellphone — conversations on social media and things they wouldn’t normally say, so those social skills. A lot of what we deal with here is things that take place outside of our walls that spill into here.”

Bohle said the goal is to have a staff member — a trusted adult — that each student feels comfortable talking to if they have a problem or suspect something going on.

“We try to tell kids that we would rather run down 100 things that end up being nothing — that this kid made a bad joke or that it was something that somebody took offense to that wasn’t a big deal — than to ever not follow something up or not have the information or the opportunity to get ahead of something and make a difference,” she said.

As the creator of the Empowerment Club, Shepherd has an Instagram account that students can follow and message. That gives them a way to talk to her about their own problems or concerns with others.

When she asked students what they would like to change about the school, a few responses centered around being more inclusive and accepting.

She said a couple of people recently pointed out there’s no place for students to go when experiencing a panic attack.

That prompted Shepherd to reach out to Principal Greg Prange to see if one could be created.

“Usually, people that are experiencing a panic attack, they get told to go to the nurse,” she said. “Sometimes, it can feel uncomfortable if there’s other people around, so hopefully, it could be a room … almost like a sensory room, just calming objects of some sort.”

Besides Say Something Week, the Empowerment Club has led other activities this school year.

Some of the feminine hygiene product dispensers in the school restrooms were empty or didn’t work, so the group worked to correct that issue.

Members also made friendship bracelets with positive messages attached and handed out Valentine’s Day cards focusing on self-love.

“I saw a girl with a Valentine’s Day card in her lunchbox the other day,” Shepherd said. “It was like, ‘I’m glad someone liked it.’”

Shepherd said she initially started the club to empower girls at the school because she noticed a lot of them didn’t know how to use and harness their voice.

“I wanted to show them that they have the power to make change and they can stand up for themselves and others,” she said.

Then she realized it’s not just “a girl thing,” it’s “an everyone thing,” so boys and girls are allowed to join the club.

The group meets for 30 minutes once a week on the last purple day during student resource time. Around 30 students are signed up now, and Shepherd said others can join any time.

“I allow everyone to speak. If they have an idea, I want them to share it. I want people to discuss anything they want,” she said. “Body image gets brought up a lot because of teenagers. … We’ve done a lot with that.”

Since she is graduating in June, Shepherd has talked to Schneider and underclassmen to keep the Empowerment Club going.

“High school is a hard time for anyone, no matter any circumstances,” she said. “I know a lot of kids, even if they are popular or not popular, they can feel so lonely and isolated, and that’s not good. If we can promote an atmosphere of inclusion and respect, it will be easier for kids. … It can change things. It can benefit a lot of people.”

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For information about Sandy Hook Promise or Say Something Week, visit

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The Seymour High School Empowerment Club meets for 30 minutes once a week on the last purple day during student resource time.

It’s open to all boys and girls who attend the school.

For information, contact sponsor Magistra Schneider or senior Chloe Shepherd.

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There have been 1,316 school shootings since 1970, and that number keeps increasing.

In 4 out of 5 school shootings, someone had known of the shooter’s plan, but they didn’t report it.

93% of school shooters plan their attack in advance, so reporting could save lives.

Around 70% of people who die from suicide tell someone their plans or give some type of warning signs.

1 out of 5 people will experience mental health issues in their life.

Source: Sandy Hook Promise


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