VERONA — The current and previous school years have presented students across the United States with social and emotional obstacles, but a nationally recognized program is coming to Verona to help them.

Sweethearts & Heroes will work with middle and high school students at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central Schools from Monday, January 31 through Thursday, February 3.

“What have students lost in 2020?” asked Tom Murphy, director and co-founder of Sweethearts & Heroes, in a statement.

His response: “Development windows have been disrupted. That’s why Sweethearts & Heroes is heading to schools this year to focus on people skills, such as empathy, compassion, and other relationship skills that cause so many students to struggle. Our students need help with their social and emotional health, now more than ever. We like to say, “You can’t be a teacher of literacy without first being a teacher of humanity. This is the focus that must be placed on our children during this school year.

Sweethearts & Heroes will spend Monday and Tuesday with VVS high school students, presenting its traditional 90-minute program. Murphy’s original Sweethearts & Heroes presentation focuses on “Empathetic Fitness” and HOPE (Hold On, Possibilities Exist!) with the goal of preventing bullying and suicide.

For 15 years, he introduced what he calls “the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of bullying” to more than 2 million students in thousands of schools from New England to Hawaii. Murphy will be joined by Rick Yarosh, a retired US Army sergeant – wounded in Iraq with burns over most of his body – who gives messages on how to overcome adversity.

“Just talking about awareness doesn’t solve anything,” said Murphy, of St. Albans, Vt. “What separates us from other anti-bullying presentations and projects is that we give each student a plan to activate their innate superpowers – to help others who struggle with bullying or other challenges that all students face. are faced. Our message and our strategies go far beyond bullying. We are about humanity, giving HOPE to the hopeless and making the world a better place.

Secondary students will also be entitled to Circle, which is based on the ancient ritual of sitting in a circle to communicate and develop empathy. Sweethearts & Heroes bandmate Pat Fish leads the Circle’s efforts. He first saw Sweethearts & Heroes as a college student in South Glens Falls almost a decade ago.

“Circle is about creating a support network for students of all grades, so that when they’re struggling with social-emotional barriers, they have the resources to deal with those challenges,” Murphy said. “If you dedicate yourself to Circle, if you engage in Circle regularly, an entire culture can change. We’ve seen this happen thousands of times.

Wednesday, Feb. 2 is Health Day at VVS, so Murphy, Yarosh and Fish will spend the morning in breakout sessions, discussing health and wellness with college kids. In the afternoon, students will see Sweethearts & Heroes’ signature presentation. On Thursday, middle school students will participate in a full day of circle work.

“We are thrilled to welcome Sweethearts & Heroes back to VVS, said District Superintendent Martha Group. “We appreciate the impact of their messages of empathy, inclusiveness and overcoming adversity on our students. The fact that we are able to offer this program to our students is particularly significant during this time.

In late 2021, Sweethearts & Heroes released 13 Pillows For Affective Teachers, an inspirational fictional allegorical novel that covers the themes of HOPE and action found in the Sweethearts & Heroes curriculum. The book is based on real students and teachers that Sweethearts & Heroes met while visiting schools. 13 Pillows is available on Amazon.