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Rick Yarosh and Tom Murphy. (Photos submitted by Sweethearts & Heroes)
Rick Yarosh and Tom Murphy. (Photos submitted by Sweethearts & Heroes)

Tonawanda students, teachers activate HOPE with 'Sweethearts & Heroes'


Fri, Mar 8th 2024 12:40 pm

Submitted by Sweethearts & Heroes

An amazing duo of superheroes without capes recently descended upon Tonawanda to show students and educators how they can spread HOPE (Hold On, Possibilities Exist) in their classrooms – and beyond.

Tom Murphy and Rick Yarosh, of Sweethearts & Heroes, were in the Tonawanda City School District on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Sweethearts & Heroes is a student empowerment and empathy activation team that aims to prevent bullying and suicide with a focus on the basic components of social-emotional learning.

Sweethearts & Heroes offers a profound, engaging signature presentation that calls for HOPE, Empathy and Action; Circle, which is built on the ancient ritual of communicating in a circle to build empathy; and BRAVE Buddies, which trains older students in bully drills that they, in turn, teach to students in lower grades.

The Sweethearts & Heroes team is Tom Murphy, director and founder, of St. Albans, Vermont; Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh, a Purple Heart recipient, HOPE expert and motivational speaker from New York who was burned severely while serving in Iraq; and Pat Fish, BRAVE and Circle Leader. (For more on Circle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q286yIL9L1E.)

While in Tonawanda on Feb. 27, Murphy and Yarosh spent the morning offering their powerful presentation to middle school students. For the remainder of the day, Yarosh led Q&A sessions with students, while Murphy conducted Circles. Murphy returned March 6 to conduct a Circle training for Tonawanda Middle School educators.

Tonawanda Middle School Assistant Principal Kristine Strible expressed pride in the school’s efforts: “At Tonawanda Middle School, we believe in equipping our students with the tools they need to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. Empowerment lies at the heart of our educational philosophy, and we are committed to nurturing a culture where every student feels valued and capable of making a difference. As Tonawanda Middle School continues its journey toward fostering empowerment and leadership among students, the ripple effects of these efforts are sure to extend far beyond the classroom, shaping confident, compassionate leaders of tomorrow and the future.”

Murphy said, “We were happy to cultivate compassion and empathy in Tonawanda. We aim to stop students from making destructive decisions and help them treat each other with kindness. We also make our messages sustainable in schools, so that they have an eventual and sustainable impact on the local community. The spider web effect is powerful and incredible.”

To ensure this sustainability, Sweethearts & Heroes created The HOPE Classroom, a digital subscription service designed for various grade levels and different school sizes. This value-packed offering can allow Sweethearts & Heroes to be in every school in the U.S. For more information, visit https://thehopeclassroom.com/.

For more than 16 years, Sweethearts & Heroes has presented what Murphy called “‘the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of bullying” to more than 2.5 million students in school districts from New England to Hawaii and north into Canada. Sweethearts & Heroes also tailors its presentations and workshops for businesses, nonprofits and civic groups.

Murphy said, “We go where we’re needed. That’s what heroes do.”

In 2021, Sweethearts & Heroes released “13 Pillows For Affective Teachers,” a novel that covers the themes of HOPE, Empathy and Action in the Sweethearts & Heroes curriculum. “13 Pillows” is based on real students and teachers that Sweethearts & Heroes has encountered. Murphy cowrote the book with Brian McKeon of New York. “13 Pillows” is available on Amazon. Digital or printed copies are available upon request. The audiobook is on Audible. (On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/13Pillows.)

For more information on Sweethearts & Heroes, visit: sweetheartsandheroes.com.

Or watch these short, impactful trailers:

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