Lisha Kill Middle School activates HOPE with Sweethearts & Heroes presentation

(Picture taken from the back of the room) Two men stand at the front of the room wearing matching "Sweethearts & HEroes" shirts. The man on th eleft is a surviving war hero- now badly burned and missing his ears, nose, hands, and other extremities. In frame there are many hands raised in the crowd, the m,an on the right is scanning the room looking for someone to call on.
Rick Yarosh (left) and Tom Murphy (right) address Lisha Kill students.

An amazing duo of superheroes without capes visited Lisha Kill Middle School this week 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, a student empowerment and empathy activation team that aims to prevent bullying and suicide, worked with the Lisha Kill Middle School community on Jan. 30. 

Sweethearts & Heroes had delivered their profound, engaging, signature presentation that calls for HOPE, Empathy and Action. Circle, which had been 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, VT; Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh, a 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:

Sentiments shared by the Sweethearts and heroes team prior to the presentation highlighted their goals for this visit. “We’re coming to Colonie to cultivate compassion and empathy,” Murphy said. “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 effect on the local community. The spider web effect is powerful.”

Throughout their presentation, the team implemented many components of fun, their belief that children of all ages learn new information more effectively when it is introduced in low pressure settings. Students responded well to their instruction, paying close attention to what was said while denser topics were broken up with lighthearted commentary, easing the tension in the room. The team’s powerful message of hope, and the strength it takes to truly care for one another, continued to echo through the hallways for the remainder of the day.

on the left of the frame is a crowd of young students eagrly watching the display in front of them. They sit forward in their auditorium seats hoping to miss nothing. To the right of the frame a skit is being played out. This skit includes both Sweethearts & Heroes speakers as well as a Lisha Kill student. The student wears a makeshift superhero outfit consisting of a bright green bath towel as a cape, swimming goggles, and a shower cap to top it off. Her and presenter Rick are walking away from the camera towards the opposite side of the long auditorium, crossing in front of the audience. The student gently holds the sleeve of presenter Rick as she leads him away from the "bully" (presenter Tom in a hat adorned with bull horns- who has his arms raised above his head menacingly). The student is seen right below one of presenter Tom's arms, looking back at him and smiling- proud of herself for successfully removing Rick from his fabricated torment (Tom's "bullying").
Student Volunteer successfully stops a bully in an educational skit.

“As students left the auditorium, they were discussing what they had just learned among themselves. We had a couple of students approach us and proudly recite the four pillars of kindness the Sweethearts & Heroes team had laid out,” said Lisha Kill principal Jill Penn. “It was clear to me that our students had really taken this information to heart. We are so thankful to Tom and Rick for coming by to speak to the Lisha Kill community and we are excited to continue to foster empathy and hope amongst our students moving forward.” 

For more than 16 years, Sweethearts & Heroes has presented what Murphy calls “‘the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of bullying” to more than 2.5 million students in school districts from New England to Hawaii. Murphy said, “We go where we’re needed. That’s what heroes do.”

For more information on Sweethearts & Heroes, visit