Copperas Cove: Students work to end violence, isolation at schools

COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) A group of local high school students is tackling issues such as violence, student isolation and bullying during a week-long initiative.

The initiative, “Start With Hello,” comes after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

“A simple hello can go a long way,” said Copperas Cove High School senior Elijah Delacruz.

Delacruz, a star for the Bulldawgs football team, also knows how feeling isolated can affect families. He lost his cousin to suicide.

“A lot of kids feel isolated, feel like nobody cares about them or nobody sees them, but if you go to somebody sitting by themselves, if you say hello, it can go a long way,” he said.

Delacruz, Alexandra Hollingsworth and Mackenzie Cobe are part of the international organization, DECA.

At Copperas Cove High School, advisor Charlotte Heinze says there are over 200 students in the chapter.

According to a mission statement, DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.

These students hoping the week helps to spread kindness across the community. Each officer is assigned to eight different schools across the district.

“Social isolation is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14 percent,” Hollingsworth said in a press release. “Furthermore, young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence, and/or depression. As a result, many pull further away from society, struggle with learning and social development and/or choose to hurt themselves or others.”

Hollingsworth is also sharing her life story in hope of helping others come out of isolation and depression. Her life almost ended two years ago.

“I took 27 pills in trying to end my life, it didn’t work and I’m very glad of that,” she said.

On Monday, DECA officers welcomed students with a meet and greet as they arrived to school. There is a day for random acts of kindness and to make sure no one is eating alone at school.

During the week, spreading a message that no one is alone.

“They are worthy and there are people that love them. It might get harder as you grow up, I mean everybody struggles, but we don’t have to struggle alone,” Hollingsworth said.

A message of choosing kindness – all in hopes of ending violence, bullying and the feeling of isolation.

Mackenzie Cobe, 17, comes from a military background. Her father is now retired, but her school years have been spent moving and trying to constantly make new friends.

A feeling of isolation is all too familiar to her. It’s also a feeling she’s hoping to help others come out of.

“It’s really important because when you are feeling alone, you don’t feel out there. With my story, you just help other kids overcome that, say ‘hi’ to everybody and help them feel less alone,” Cobe said.

The week will wrap up with a pep rally on Friday.

Earlier this month, Copperas Cove Mayor Bradi Diaz presented a proclamation for the week at a city council meeting.

“The Start with Hello initiative is a program that all citizens of Copperas Cove should support,” Diaz said in a press release. “No person should feel isolated or alone, and teaching young adults the importance of inclusion and acceptance will prove vital in making this world a better place for generations to come.”