April’s Meaningful Moments: Celebration, Honor and Advocacy

Originally published by Michele Gay on LinkedIn

Blog hero image for April's Meaningful Moments blog, featuring a collage with founders Michele Gay and Alissa Parker, Michele's daughter Joey, and Susan Parziale.

April holds a very special place in the heart of Safe and Sound Schools. It’s a month where we commemorate our journey, honor remarkable individuals, and continue our advocacy for safer, more inclusive environments for every student, every day. We invite you to join us in embracing each of these meaningful moments!

Celebrating 11 Years of Safe and Sound Schools

This week, we celebrated the founding anniversary of Safe and Sound Schools—a milestone that fills us with immense pride and gratitude. 

When Alissa Parker and I co-founded this organization, we shared a vision: to honor our daughters, Emilie Parker and Josephine “Joey” Grace Gay, and to make a difference. From these humble beginnings rooted in unimaginable tragedy, to emerging as a leading comprehensive school safety advocacy and resource center serving communities nationwide, our journey underscores the power of unwavering resolve. 

Since 2013, our shared vision has blossomed into a larger team, a vibrant community and, most importantly, into meaningful progress. As we’ve mentioned before, last year was one of our most impactful yet, and we’re excited to continue building on that momentum.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for being part of the last 11 years – for us, for our daughters, for our families, and for our school communities. We are all truly in this together!

Honoring Remarkable Individuals

Susan Parziale of Safe and Sound Schools, posing in a blue t-shirt that contains colorful puzzle pieces in the shape of heart in honor of Autism Awareness Month. April also marks World Autism Month—a time to shine a spotlight on autism awareness, acceptance, and to celebrate the unique talents and contributions of individuals on the autism spectrum.

At Safe and Sound Schools, we’re deeply connected to the significance of fostering environments where every individual feels valued and supported.

As many of you know, from the moment Safe and Sound Schools was founded, it was my dream to honor Joey and address the safety needs of our “especially special” kids. Through the development of our Especially Safe program, we’re able to help schools and districts with inclusive safety planning that considers the needs of all student populations– from developmental disabilities to communication challenges, medical needs to mobility challenges, and beyond.

What you may not know is that others on the Safe and Sound team also have close relationships with autism within their families. When talking about the incredible work that we do, it’s essential to acknowledge the unique contributions and perspectives of these dedicated team members, including Dr. Frank Straub and Susan Parziale. Drawing on personal experiences with autism in their families, they help to illuminate our inclusive path forward with empathy and understanding.

I look forward to sharing additional insights from them, as well as others within the autism community throughout the rest of the month. 

Continued Learning in Bowling Green, KY

Looking ahead, our journey continues with the Southeast School Safety Summit May 29 and 30 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Teaming up with the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC), we cannot wait to bring together national experts and local leaders for two days of keynotes, breakout sessions, and expert panels. With a focus on current trends and proven best practices, we’re grateful for the opportunity to gather and unite in our shared goal of protecting every school, every student, every day.

Check out the video for more details. It’s sure to be an event you don’t want to miss!

Thank You for Embracing These Meaningful Moments with Us!

As we continue to embrace opportunities and challenges throughout 2024, let us carry forward the spirit of April—the spirit of celebration, recognition, and renewed commitment to creating safer, more inclusive communities. Together, we are building a future where every child feels safe, supported, and empowered to thrive.

With gratitude and continued determination,

Michele Gay

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Safe and Sound Schools

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