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Sweethearts & Heroes is available to help students and staff at North Rose-Wolcott Central School District

The 2020-2021 school year presented students across the U.S. with social and emotional obstacles, but a nationally renown program is coming to Wolcott, N.Y., to help.

Sweethearts & Heroes, a student empowerment and empathy activation program, will work with students, teachers and staff in the North Rose-Wolcott Central School District during a weeklong residency that lasts from Sept. 13-17.

“What did students lose during 2020?” said Tom Murphy, co-founder of Sweethearts & Heroes. “Developmental windows were disrupted. That’s why Sweethearts & Heroes is going to schools this year to focus on the human skills, such as empathy, compassion, and the other relationship skills that cause struggles for so many students. 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 being a teacher of humanity first.’ That’s the focus that needs to happen for our children during this school year.”

Sweethearts & Heroes will present its traditional program to students at all grade levels in the North Rose-Wolcott Central School District. Now in its tenth year, Murphy’s original Sweethearts & Heroes presentation focuses on “Empathetic Fitness” and H.O.P.E. (Hold On Possibilities Exist). For 10 years, he has presented what he calls “‘the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of bullying” to more than 1 million students in several hundred schools from New England to Hawaii. Murphy will be joined by Rick Yarosh, a retired sergeant with the U.S. Army — injured in Iraq with burns over most of his body — who gives messages about overcoming adversity.

“Just talking about awareness doesn’t fix 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 empower them to help others that are struggling with bullying or other challenges that all students face. Our message and strategies go way beyond bullying. We are about humanity, giving H.O.P.E. to the hopeless and making the world a better place.”

Wolcott students and teachers will also be treated to a new component of Sweethearts & Heroes: CIRCLE — which is based on the ancient ritual of sitting in a circle to communicate. (For more on CIRCLE, watch this 2-minute video:

Murphy’s CIRCLE co-presenter is Pat Fish, who watched Sweethearts & Heroes as a middle school student in South Glens Falls, N.Y., a decade ago.

“CIRCLE is about building a support network for students, so that when they are struggling with social and emotional obstacles this year, they will have the resources necessary to manage those struggles,” Murphy said. “If you dedicate to CIRCLE, if you commit to CIRCLE on a regular basis, an entire culture can change. We’ve seen it happen thousands of times.”

North Rose-Wolcott Central School District Superintendent Michael Pullen said, “I have had the pleasure of working with Tom Murphy and Rick Yarosh previously, and I am thrilled that they will be spending a week with our students and staff. Their presentations are powerful and real. I cannot think of a better way to welcome students back to school than with a message of hope and encouragement. I believe Tom and Rick’s stories of perseverance and grit will resonate with our community.”

For more information on Sweethearts & Heroes, visit:
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