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Southmoreland students write book on kindness

Marilyn Forbes | For The Independent-Observer
Students at Southmoreland High school have volunteered to write and illustrate an original book that focuses on random acts of kindness. Illustrators include (from left) Alex Busato, 14, Samantha Gray, 16, and Jasmine Cressman, 16.

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When a seed is planted, a wonderful growth may emerge, and such is the case when random acts of kindness are stressed as a way to spread good will toward others.

A group of Southmoreland High School students are putting the idea of kindness together in a book they are writing and illustrating that may be completed by the end of the summer and now holds the working title, “Scottie Pays it Forward.”

“We did a book last year and the students really enjoyed it, so we thought why not do one every year,” said Jenna Hixson, Southmoreland teacher.

In 2000, the movie “Pay it Forward” was released and launched the idea of doing random acts of kindness with the hopes that the person who received the gesture will turn around and do something random and thoughtful for someone else, creating a string of kindness or a chain of acts.

The students who are composing the book are from the Random Acts of Kindness club or the Reading Buddies program, and have combined their creative talents to have last year's book's main character, “Scottie” the Scottie dog, begin a chain of thoughtfulness that is passed on to other characters.

“They have characters like Peter the Panda, Sal the Salamander, Dr. Grey the Groundhog, Lindsay the Lightning bug and others,” Hixson said, adding the book will be perfect for children at the first-grade level.

Last year's book created by the students was called “Scottie, You are Special.”

“We wanted to do something about self-esteem and self-worth,” Hixson said.

Since creating books can be costly, Hixson decided to research grant opportunities and located the Savannah Pay It Forward Foundation, founded in memory of Savannah Kleinhans, 9, of Cambria, Wis., who tragically died in a fishing accident in February 2009.

“They award mini-grants to those who want to spread the message of kindness,” Hixson said of the $500 to be used to purchase finished books that will then be distributed to children in the school district.

The students, numbering about 20, began meeting at the beginning of the school year and now meet weekly to work on the book.

They have completely volunteered their time and efforts to work on the book after school, and are not doing the project for any type of points or credits.

They are doing it to spread the message of kindness.

Student illustrator Alex Busato, 14, said that after he was encouraged to take part in the Reading Buddies program, he realized the satisfaction of reaching out to help others, and he said that he was pleased when Hixson announced they would be doing another book this year.

“I was so happy that I could be a part of this,” Busato said. “It's my chance to help to make something nice for the kids and it's something with a really good message.”

Head illustrator Samantha Gray, 16, was a part of the first book. She said the experience was fun and one she is happy to be able to repeat.

“Reading Buddies is my favorite thing to do and it's been the best experience that I have had in high school,” Gray said. “I saw the impact that our first book made on the students in the Primary Center and I am really excited to see how this one turns out.”

Student illustrator Jasmine Cressman, 16, said she enjoys the focus of the book.

“It will help little kids know what kindness is all about and how it's important to be kind to others,” Cressman said.

The students have finished the writing and are now working on the illustrations.

Students plan to work over the summer to paint the illustrations and put the book together, which will then be produced by Silverbear Graphics in conjunction with Minuteman Press in Greensburg.

The first book remains available through

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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