Newtown, Conn. (PRWEB) August 12, 2015
After the tragic death of their 6-year-old son Dylan in the Sandy Hook School shooting, Ian and Nicole Hockley established Dylan’s Wings of Change, a foundation dedicated to the memory of Dylan that is committed to helping children with autism and other related conditions achieve their full potential.
“While many organizations have a philosophy of inclusion, they lack an easy framework to foster awareness and acceptance of physical, intellectual and behavioral differences to achieve a supportive environment for all,” Ian Hockley said. Erin and Jeromie Schumacher, athletics coaches from Middlebury, CT joined Dylan’s Wings of Change with a program concept they were developing that met this need, titled ‘Wingman.’
Wingman is based on leadership principles, peer modeling and recognizing positive behaviors in all children. The primary goal is to recognize children for their unique and individual strengths, improving self-image and self-confidence while strengthening camaraderie and developing a stronger community. Ultimately Dylan’s Wings of Change seeks to dissolve the ‘us’ and ‘them’ barrier, making it every child's responsibility to go above and beyond for one another, not just the child with differences. In so doing, all children become one another's ‘Wingman.’
Mr. Hockley and Mrs. Schumacher presented the concepts of Wingman to the Board of the Connecticut Association of Schools in February 2015 and invited schools to participate in the first wave of the rollout. Wingman for Schools will launch pilots in three Middle Schools in Connecticut this Fall – City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck, Brownstone Intermediate in Portland, and New Fairfield Middle School in New Fairfield - each developing and sharing material for the launch in September 2015. Student leadership groups at each school are managing all aspects of the project supported by dedicated teachers and administration.
Brian Hendrickson, Principal of City Hill Middle School, said he and Mr. Hockley met with student focus groups, faculty/staff focus groups, and parent groups, and received an overwhelmingly positive response to the program. “We knew it would be a great fit,” he said.
City Hill Middle School engaged a nationally recognized school climate consultant, Jennifer Stanchfield, author of The Inspired Educator Blog, and created a process for students to design their own Wingman activities that trained student Wingman facilitators will roll out on monthly ‘Wingman Wednesdays’ starting in October. Hendrickson acknowledged the enthusiastic and dedicated faculty and staff Champions – Meaghan Banti, Carolyn Laurentis and Joe Saverese - who are supporting the students.
“We know that the more kids feel comfortable and connected with their classmates, the more they will learn and all reach their full potential. I am confident that this program will allow something very tangible, positive, and powerful to come out of the tragedy at Sandy Hook,” Hendrickson said.
Christine Baldelli, Principal of New Fairfield Middle School, applauded the outstanding work that their ‘PACK’ student team and teachers Joel Pardalis and Rachel Dapp completed during the final weeks of the last school year to prepare for the upcoming launch. “Wingman has enabled our PBIS (Positive Behavior in Schools) program to expand to a new level and we are excited to be a part of this pilot,” Baldelli said.
Hockley said it has been an honor to work with schools to take Wingman from an idea to “something real.” “These schools have embraced the mission of Wingman and have been working hard to tailor it to the individual needs of their student communities. It is exciting to see them taking the initiative to create activities and build programs that can be replicated in schools across Connecticut. We are looking forward to seeing Wingman take flight.”
In addition to the school program, Dylan’s Wings of Change is also developing Wingman for Sports Clubs following a $25,000 grant provided by Autism Speaks. This module translates Wingman for the playing field and gives coaches the framework to create the same supportive environment in their own club.
About Dylan’s Wings of Change
Established in 2013, Dylan’s Wings of Change is a foundation dedicated to the memory of 6 year old Dylan Hockley, one of 20 children and 6 educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. The foundation’s mission is to help children with autism and other related conditions achieve their full potential through programs focused on technology, sports and the arts. Their unique Wingman program creates awareness and acceptance leading to inclusion for all. Dylan's Wings of Change is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501c3 registered charity based at 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20036.