Kindness Project offers pick-me-up at Pleasant Hills Middle School
Alyssa McCormick watches as classmates who once burst through the door ahead of their peers now stop and wait to hold the door for their fellow students.
Other students now are watching what they say in an effort to be respectful, while their peers are offering pencils to classmates who left one at home.
Students are doing good deeds inside the hallways of Pleasant Hills Middle School in an effort to complete tasks through the Kindness Project launched by seventh-grade language arts teacher Danna Laureano and 10 of her students.
The Kindness Project, meant to promote positivity and empathy, challenges students to find an envelope scattered in the hallways or above the water fountains and do the good deed written on a card inside as many times in one week as possible.
“Initially I wasn't thinking of this in big terms, I just want my kids to be nice. Partly, I'm here to teach them English, but partly I want to teach them to be good people,” said Laureano, who found the idea for the project on Pinterest.
She approached students in her second-period class about launching a good deed-related project at Pleasant Hills Middle School, and 10 girls jumped at the idea to bring the Kindness Project to life.
They brought in supplies, designed their own envelopes and created cards that challenged their peers to help a classmate with their homework or partner with a peer who doesn't have someone to work with in class.
Middle school, especially sixth grade, can be tough, the students said. That makes it even more important to be nice to others who might be struggling, they said.
“You'll see people who are upset or they're not with their friends, they're alone. The Kindness Project just enforces that we all should always be nice,” Jillian Piscitelli, 12, said.
The students visited all seventh-grade classrooms and talked about the project, leaving extra envelopes in the classrooms to allow students to do more good deeds.
They've watched as students picked out a card and read the task, then went about their day fulfilling the challenge.
One student has a plan to complete every task listed on the cards scattered throughout the school, Laureano said.
The tasks are simple to show that being kind to others doesn't have to take a lot of effort.
“I feel like a lot of people think that being kind and helping people is this big grand gesture and you have to do all of this stuff. It's really just doing something like holding the door for someone,” Emma Ratner, 12, said. “We wanted to enforce that kindness is a simple gesture, like holding the door or helping someone study, and you don't have to give them a car to be kind.”
They also hope the project helps students learn that being popular doesn't mean you have to be rude to others.
“Kids these days think it's cool to be rude and it's really not,” Carly Woods, 13, said.
While they realize this won't fix everything, they hope it goes a long way toward changing student's attitudes.
“A lot of times, the reason people are mean to other people is because they don't feel good about themselves. But if they do kind things, they'll feel good. So, I think it's not just helping the people they're being kind to, it's helping themselves, too,” Ratner said.
The students also surprised their peers for Halloween by “booing” classmates who teachers pointed out as possibly needing an extra pick-me-up. The students who were “booed” received a treat in their locker, then passed the kindness on by “booing” someone else.
For the holidays, the students again plan to surprise their peers. This time they plan to “jingle them” with little treats to make their day brighter.
Since the project launched early in the school year, the students have noticed a change in the school and in themselves.
“I hold the door open for someone else more often. I just do those little small acts because I know this is what I should be doing and I should be doing it more often because it's actually fun to do something kind,” Rachael Parsons, 12, said.
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.