Connecticut Program Aims to Help Middle Schoolers Help Each Other

Sep 2, 2015

Ian and Nicole Hockley lost  their son, Dylan, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

Dylan had autism, and some problems with speech and engaging socially. After his death, his parents started a foundation called Dylan's Wings of Change to help children with similar difficulties develop fully. Their Wingman program is little different because it's for all kids.

"What Wingman does, is instills in children the leadership and courage to reach out to each other, connect and include and build a strong community," Ian Hockley said.

The idea is pretty simple. There will be a series of activities throughout the year that introduce students to the qualities of being a Wingman, which Hockley said is a person who's willing to go above and beyond to help someone. 

Three middle schools are piloting the program --  New Fairfield Middle School, City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck, and Brownstone Intermediate in Portland.

Students will determine the activities, and will have consultants from the foundation to help them along the way. By the end of the year, Hockley hopes there will be proof that the program is working. That proof could be better attendance, fewer behavior problems, and better overall school climate.

"Any program out there that ensures all children are connected, that no one is excluded, bullied, [or] left out, is going to move in the right direction, rather than in the wrong direction ... people that feel that their only way forward is to commit those acts, whether it's harm to themselves or to others," Hockley said.

Wingman got its start last year at Nutmeg Striders athletic club in Southbury, and Hockley said he'd like the program to expand to other middle and elementary school across the state.