Love Wins: Sandy Hook mom, schools teach kids empathy

Classmates Areceli, 10, and Jeniye, 9, are the little soldiers at the forefront for fighting against violence such as the Sandy Hook shooting. How on earth these little voices are tasked with that? The belief is that ignoring troubled children can lead to bullying at best and violence at worst.

The lesson being taught is a most personal one for Nelba Marquez-Greene. Her enthusiastic daughter Ana was one of the promising young souls gunned down at Sandy Hook. Now, in her name, Ana's mother has created a program called Love Wins to help socially isolated kids like the one who would grow up to take her 6-year-old daughter's life. Araceli was introduced to the program and got it immediately.

Evidence of the Love Wins program is clear to see at Chamberlain Elementary School in Connecticut. Like this friendship chain hanging overhead as a reminder of how easily friendships can begin. Kindness and empathy are taught as a school philosophy. Look at this writing assignment: the non-Chamberlain way, to insult (you're stupid); the Chamberlain way: to compliment and be polite (I like your hair, thank you). Lessons transposed into real life by Jeniye, who saw a fellow student sitting at position one on the buddy bench, alone. Jeniye took the initiative to go over and to do something about it. She asked if he wanted to join their game.

These writing exercises may seem like simple activities but they're really small gestures and small gestures make a really big difference. The teacher in this classroom had the idea to write to Ana's parents after the Sandy Hook shooting. Craig Muzzy proposed his students write to Nelba about what love means to them. She received the packet of cards at the darkest of times. It came with an invitation to visit Muzzy's class. In turn, that sparked a very special program to teach emotional intelligence, putting the children of classroom 205 on the front lines, little soldiers out to identify and help troubled minds.