Plymouth State University hosted a community-wide event to promote collective wellbeing on October 24, featuring Scarlett Lewis, founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement. An opening presentation in the Hanaway Theatre was followed by an afternoon of family-friendly activities on Alumni Green.
Scarlett Lewis founded the Choose Love Movement after her six-year-old son, Jesse, was murdered during the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012. Motivated to research forms of compassion and teach the world how to avoid similar future tragedies, Lewis found that love, connection, and belonging are universal wants and needs that connect us all. Today, the movement has programs that have been accessed in all 50 states and in 111 countries.
“I am so honored to be here at Plymouth State University celebrating Choose Love, and sharing it with your community,” said Lewis. “Helping to spread the awareness that we have a choice, and that even though we can’t always choose what happens to us we can choose how we thoughtfully respond, even during COVID, and we can respond with love.”
The event also featured a special performance by PSU’s TIGER theatre program, and New Hampshire’s kid governor and mental health advocate, Charlie Olsen. Local organizations such as Communities for Alcohol & Drug Free Youth (CADY), Pemi Youth Center, and reach 1 teach 1 love 1 were on hand to provide information and resources.
“We’re sharing skills, tools, and awareness to help all of us, both little kids and big kids, to be able to respond to anything that is happening so we can respond with love and take our personal power back,” said Lewis.
“We are honored to be an affiliate of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, and were thrilled to welcome Scarlett to Plymouth and to offer our community an opportunity to come together to have fun and relax— especially after the strain of the past 17 months,” said Jessica Dutille, director of community impact and student life. “What I know for sure is that love heals, love is what binds us, and love is exactly what we need. We have to embody it and reach out to one another and embrace our connections as a community.”
The tour visit came in response to the rise in stress, anxiety, isolation, and fatigue in children and adults due to COVID. The Choose Love Movement aims to support the mental health needs of educators, students, families, and community-at-large through the principles of the Choose Love Formula™ and Post-Traumatic Growth strategies that promote healing and growth during difficult times.
The event followed a meeting hosted by New Hampshire First Lady Valerie Sununu in Concord this summer, which brought together a contingent of PSU faculty, staff, students, and Plymouth area business and community leaders to discuss the program. “It’s obvious to me that Plymouth is a really special community beyond the University, and that it’s a partnership,” commented Mrs. Sununu. “It vibrates with positivity and initiatives like this that bring everybody closer together, and I feel privileged to be here.”
“Plymouth truly is a community, it’s palpable coming here, it’s how you all embrace this and want to grow that community even more,” said Shannon Desilets, a post-trauma specialist who has worked closely with the Sandy Hook community in Newtown, CT. Desilets is New Hampshire’s Choose Love Movement program director, reporting to the Governor’s Office. “When I started in this position three years ago one of my goals right away was to get this program into university campuses,” she said. “You are setting an example for the rest.”