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Connecticut students honor Sandy Hook victim with murals of ‘Nurturing, Healing, Love’

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NORTH HAVEN -- It's social and emotional awareness learning week in Connecticut. And for some students, they are choosing love.

Inspired by Jesse Lewis, a first grader killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, students from seven schools across the state showcased murals they created as part of an art program started by the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation.

The mural presentation, which was at Quinnipiac University's North Haven campus, was part of the foundation's mission to teach kids resilience and how to foster positive relationships.

“There's over 30 years of research that shows that social and emotional learning decreases violence and behavioral issues in schools,” said Scarlett Lewis, Jesse’s mother.

She worked closely with Sen. Richard Blumenthal to create legislation allowing existing professional development funding to be used to train teachers in concepts related to social and emotional learning.

“We live in an age of confrontation and conflict and sometimes violence and these students can teach us a lesson,” said Blumenthal.

The art work and a presentation by students from Waterbury's Wilby High School was inspired by Scarlett Lewis's book "Nurturing, Healing, Love." The title comes from the three words Jesse Lewis had written on his family’s chalkboard just prior to his death.

“The book talks about how you know, in life, we don't have control over many things and we have control over how we react to them and how we respond to them,” said Krislyn Petti, an English teacher at Wilby.

She says this was a perfect book for kids from an urban setting, where life is often tough.

“When I was three years old, my mother overdosed on drugs and killed herself,” said Rohan Rhule Jr., a Wilby senior. “So, as an individual, Jesse helped me to choose strength and push through every day to keep reaching my goals and go further in life.”

Blumenthal was so moved by all schools’ creations he invited the children and their teachers to accompany their artwork on an upcoming trip to Washington, which drew a rousing cheer.

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