First, our hearts go out to the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Houston students will not experience the return to school that millions of children across the country have enjoyed this week.
Back to school is a challenging time for a family that has lost a child. While social media is full of smiling faces and neatly brushed hair, their loved one’s pictures are forever frozen in time. Dylan and his 19 other classmates who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 would have been going into 6th grade, that’s middle school in many towns. The six educators who lost their lives would have been welcoming students to their building, enthusing them with learning and guiding them on their journey of life.
The fifth ‘anniversary’ of the shooting is coming. As we remember the past, let us celebrate the present. Wingman continues to grow, bringing youth led social and emotional development to schools, dance studios and sports clubs. Wingman challenges young people to step up, go above and beyond and strengthen their community, and is really beginning to resonate with forward thinking organizations.
This year 14 middle and 3 elementary schools have adopted Wingman as their core SEL philosophy, an incredible expansion considering the program began two years ago with 3 founding schools. Six hundred student leaders have been specially trained to bring Wingman activities into classrooms, reaching 7,500 of their peers in CT and NY. Those young leaders set the direction for Wingman - what issues do they think their community needs to address - and they create original and exciting activities to explore those problems and learn the qualities of a Wingman. Schools enrolled in the program share lessons and experiences with each other, every time the program grows the content is enriched. The middle schools are busy preparing inspiring launch events for this month, featuring guest speakers like Eddie Slowikowski and Kaila Mullady, that then set the stage for Wingman to flow throughout the school year. There is already interest from schools in New Jersey and Vermont and we are excited who joins the League of Wingman next.
Wingman for Dance emerged from its pilot phase in 2016 and there are now 37 studios registered with the program across 19 different states and four studios in Canada. W4D is being showcased at national dance conferences and was featured in the August issue of Dance Studio Life magazine. Studios that have adopted W4D are spreading the message at competitions and with their dance families.
We are honored to work with these communities and inspired by the young people that embrace these beliefs and honor Dylan’s memory; the little boy who needed everyone to be his Wingman.