Back-To-School Essentials PSA — Sandy Hook Promise

Abner Torres Martinez
4 min readJun 2, 2021


Make The Promise | #ProtectOurKids

Sandy Hook Promise is a nonprofit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Based in Newtown, Connecticut, their intent is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning tragedy into moments of transformation. While also empowering youth to “know the signs” and uniting all people who value the protection of children to prevent gun violence and stop the tragic loss of life. In a devastating public service announcement produced by the Sandy Hook Promise, familiar back-to-school supplies such as pencils, scissors and gym socks are recasted as emergency survival tools in a school shooting scene. The ad reflects a grim reality for the network of survivors from more than 228,000 students who have experienced a school shooting since the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999.

Sandy Hook Promise’s “Back-To-School Essentials” won the 2020 Outstanding Commercial Emmy Award

To provide context for the video, the opening scene illustrates a young boy pulling a new backpack out of his locker, leading viewers to believe that the video is an unassuming ad for school supplies. That quickly changes in the next scene when a young girl shows off a new binder to the camera, at the same time, a teacher can be seen in the background rushing to close and lock the door. Dark undertones start to take shape as another boy celebrates his new headphones that are, “perfect for studying,” distant screams can be heard and students behind him begin to run out of the frame. The darker undertones soon become overt when a boy is shown running down a hall, passing a fallen student. As he is running, the boy says to the camera, “these new sneakers are just what I needed for the new year.” The sound of screams and gunshots echo from the distance.

As the video progresses, it gets emotionally harder and harder to watch. Students are seen breaking windows to escape classrooms, tying socks around their legs to stop bleeding and clutching makeshift weapons beneath doorframes. The nightmare wraps up with a girl huddled in the bathroom, tears streaming down her face, as she sends a text message to her mother that reads: “I love you mom.” She explains, “I finally got my own phone to stay in touch with my mom.” As the bathroom door opens and heavy footsteps are heard slowly approaching, the screen fades to black. The video ends with a strong message across a black background that reads, “It’s back to school time, and you know what that means.”

To say the least, the story was troubling to watch for many viewers, including myself, knowing that a situation similar to the one in the video can happen at any given time. While the storyline did a great job in terms of emotional appeal, the setting, undertones, and lighting gave the video a much-added suspense and drew viewer’s closer as if they were also in the room with the kids. As an overall work, this video provides truth and understanding into the hardships many parents and kids have to go through during the school year. It does a great job informing people how they can recognize troubling behavior and intervene to stop violence like school shootings before they happen. Thanks to this video, I took matters into my own hands and looked into what Sandy Hook Promise has done to raise awareness on gun violence and school safety. What I found was inspiring and encouraging to see, as they’ve done so much for the community and for many people affected by gun violence. It even led me to subscribe to their newsletter and make a small charitable donation to improve their programs as they develop new ways to stop the epidemic of school shootings.