Allderdice student builds ‘Keeping Up With Kindness’ program at Colfax Elementary |

Allderdice student builds ‘Keeping Up With Kindness’ program at Colfax Elementary

Nicole C. Brambila
Nicole C. Brambila | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School senior Lauren Haffner created a program called “Keeping up with Kindness,” inspired to act in the wake of the Tree of Life shootings. Here, she’s leading the program at second-grade classes at Colfax School.
Nicole C. Brambila | Tribune-Review
Jalice Johnson, 9, a second-grader at Colfax Elementary School in Pittsburgh, draws a picture filling a bucket with a rainbow for ”Keeping up with Kindness.”
Nicole C. Brambila | Tribune-Review
Second grade students (top and counter clockwise) Quazier Beakley, 7, Ester Reddy, 7, and Nathan Perry, 7, at Colfax Elementary School in Pittsburgh write kind words to each other for an exercise called “Fill the bucket.”

At the close of her one-hour program, Lauren Haffner asked Mrs. Grujich’s second-grade class at Colfax Elementary in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, “Are you going to stand up to bullies?”

Nineteen students – in unison – responded enthusiastically, “Yes!”

That was the answer Haffner, a 17-year-old senior at Allderdice High School, was looking for. She had just spent four weeks with the 7- and 8-year-olds – in the class she attended at their age – reading and talking and doing activities to encourage the children to be kind to each other. She calls the program “Keeping Up With Kindness.”

“They’re the next generation and what they’re thinking is key,” said Haffner, who created the program as a project for the Centers for Advanced Study, which offers accelerated courses for gifted and talented high school students. “It’s key to making change and it’s key to making good things happen.”

The genesis for the teen’s kindness program was born in grief.

After the Oct. 27 mass shooting at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life synagogue, where she once attended Hebrew classes, Haffner said she had to do something to help her community heal. She also had a final school project and senior year looming. So, after meeting with city officials and trusted mentors, an idea began to form. It would take her into the classroom, and steer her away from the written reports on Crohn’s disease and Andy Warhol that she had done.

Randi Grujich, Haffner’s second-grade teacher at Colfax, wasn’t surprised. Grujich called the teen “my kind child” when Haffner was a second-grader.

On Wednesday, Grujich’s students gathered on her colored rug to share the things they had written about each other on scraps of construction paper for an exercise called “Fill the Bucket,” after the book by Carol McCloud the class had read together. The idea is that the things said and done to each other can either fill or dip into another’s bucket.

Haffner called the exercise “a magical experience.”

“When it’s kids wanting to take an initiative in their neighborhood, it’s really important that we support that,” said Pittsburgh Councilman Corey O’Connor, Haffner’s city representative.

Colfax Principal Tamara Sanders-Woods welcomes Haffner’s approach.

“At Colfax, we believe that kids are relational learners,” Sanders-Woods said. “They learn from who they like.” And students like Haffner are a critical asset because of the coolness factor on impressionable kids. “It definitely matters because they can reach them sometimes when we can’t.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.