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Canyon Park student leaders spread kindness to peers
The atmosphere at Canyon Park Junior High has been very different this week.
"The energy at school has been super positive," said Ryan Moore, 14. "For the first time, many of us are stopping to talk to people we never talked to before and really ask them how they're doing."
Moore and his fellow students in the leadership class created a kindness week called "Catch the Kindness Virus" in an effort to promote positive treatment of each other and help school culture and safety. The students wrote plans for each teacher, showed a school-wide video for teachers to discuss in their classrooms and created moral-boosting activities at lunch for everyone to feel included.
"The students here are really responding and we are abuzz or infected with kindness," said Whitney Connors, leadership teacher. "They thought up this movement and have really run with it."
The students said an inspirational speaker named Houston Craft who came to the school this month gave them the idea for kindness week.
"He did a skit where he put on these glasses and then was able to see peoples' struggles," explained Drew Clark, 15. "It got us thinking that maybe a lot of students were going through some hard times that we didn't know about."
Discussing Craft's performance made the students realize they all had something in common.
"We have all felt bullied or picked on for some reason," said Lauren Johnson, 15. "It's usually not physical bullying, but verbal and that can really affect someone not only now, but in their future. If you say someone is ugly or needs to loose weight, that can cause them to have problems."
The students didn't want their message to be about bullying.
"Doing an anti-bullying campaign is sort of negative," said Olivia Sablan. "It tells students what not to do. We wanted to focus on the positive message of kindness where we told them ways they could express that."
One example the leadership students gave on how to show kindness, was to talk to someone new.
"There are lots of students out there that are great people, but they are often alone because they are either shy or different," Moore said. "We want to encourage each other to approach those people and to get to know their story."
Leadership students created an exercise for each class to do where a student anonymously wrote down one thing they are proud of and one thing they struggle with. Their responses get placed on a white board for people to read. Some wrote down they were struggling with grades, others confessed they were being abused by a parent or relative.
"This really showed us that people are going through stuff all the time and often they don't want to or can't express their struggles," Johnson said. "We hope this made people want to get to know each other and be there for each other."
Connors said her leadership students ended up having an effect on their teachers as well.
"During this week, every second-period teacher has participated in the activities that the kids have planned," Connors said. "As the week has gone on, teachers have come running up to me to tell me the amazing connections that they are having in class. This week is bridging the gap between students and teachers to form one cohesive community at Canyon Park."
The leadership students said they want to be responsible for creating a chain reaction of kindness acts.
"We don't want students to stop being kind to each other after this week is over," Moore said. "We want to encourage each other to be kind all the time. We want to promote what we are doing so that maybe kids at other schools will hear about the kindness movement and want to take it to their school as well."