Choose Love Enrichment Program
Scarlett Lewis experienced something that no parent should ever have to: she lost her six-year old son Jesse when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. How that tragedy was transformed into a Pre-K to Grade 12 Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program started that very night, when Lewis returned home with her older son, JT, and found these words scrawled on her kitchen chalkboard from Jesse: “Nurturing Healing Love.”

Inspired by her son’s words, Scarlett took the first step on an unexpected journey when she made a pivotal decision: “I am not going to be another victim of this killer. I can either live in anger and resentment, or choose love and forgiveness.”

As unfathomable as it might seem to some people, Scarlett Lewis was able to change her thinking. “You can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose how to respond.” She decided that responding with love was key to preventing mass shootings like the one that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults that day. “If the shooter had been able to give and receive nurturing, healing love, the tragedy would never have happened.”

With the help of educators, researchers, psychologists, and social and emotional learning experts, Scarlett Lewis developed a program to teach children about the power each of us has to change our thoughts and choose a life without fear and hate. In the 2016/2017 school year, the free program was downloaded by more than 1,000 educators in 47 states and 20 different countries.

Ka‘elepulu Elementary School was the first Hawai‘i school to implement the Choose Love curriculum, and nine more schools are joining this year. With its focus on four character values—courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion—Principal Jamie Dela Cruz immediately recognized that “the program, which can be applied easily and deeply, is a real gift to our students, teachers and families.” Its arrival in Hawai‘i stemmed from Scarlett Lewis’ meeting with President Barack Obama, whose sister Maya Soetoro-Ng now serves on the nonprofit’s advisory board.

Teachers like Sara Wong have seen the positive effects in and outside of their classrooms, “whether working out a disagreement on the playground or telling the truth even when it’s hard to.” The forthcoming Choose Love at Home program brings the message beyond the classroom, proving that the legacy of a first-grader named Jesse Lewis can change each of us … and all of us.

Watch a video of a presentation from the 2017 Schools of the Future Conference here.