She helped save lives by rushing 15 first-graders into a closet-sized bathroom at Sandy Hook Elementary, and now Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis is on a new mission – to spread kindness to classrooms across the country.
Almost one year later, Roig-DeBellis still remembers the agonizing minutes when she didn't know if she and her students would make it out of the school alive.
“There aren’t words for how terrible it was,” she said. “I’m still so aware that it could have been my life, so aware.”
In the days following the tragedy, Roig-DeBellis began to notice the donations pouring into her classroom, and she had an idea.
“I just knew I wanted to find a way to share that kindness so that other students could experience it,” Roig-DeBellis said.
Her non-profit organization Classes 4 Classes connects those who want to help with those in need. Classes can sign up online and help raise money for other classes to purchase things like iPads and field trips. Anyone can donate, and once the class has received, they are encouraged to pay it forward.
“It’s our mission to teach kids that in life we’re all connected, and it’s our job to teach kids that we have to care about one another,” Roig-DeBellis said.
Her mission has been featured in magazine spreads, and Glamour recently named her Woman of the Year. Roig-Debellis said it's an incredible honor, and also a reminder of just how much time has passed.
“What I’ve really learned in the past year is that you can always have hope, and for me, Classes 4 Classes is my healing,” she said
In August, her year-long sabbatical will come to an end and after that, she will go back to teaching in a new classroom, sharing the same lesson of kindness.