Students at Anne Arundel County Public Schools on Fort Meade have been spreading kindness throughout their schools.
As part of the AACPS Be Nice campaign, school administrators and guidance departments have encouraged students to engage in acts of kindness.
“[The campaign] was introduced in November during the American Education Week to students, staff and parents during faculty meetings, open house and Rally Circle,” said Reba Miller, seventh-grade counselor at MacArthur Middle School. “It is very important to have this program to support middle school students’ social well-being.”
One way that students at MacArthur have practiced acts of kindness was by writing thank-you notes to their teachers and decorating their classroom doors.
Meade High School is also beginning the new year on a kind note.
“We are doing ‘Start With Hello’ week next,” said Khristine Smith, Meade High’s social worker. “Monday morning we will be passing out green bracelets and encouraging students to look for random acts of kindness. They will then give up their green bracelet.”
Meade High students are participating in a nationwide initiative that began Monday and ends Friday. The effort was organized by the Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization founded by family members of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
“Start With Hello Week raises awareness and educates students and the community through Start With Hello training, advertising, activities, public proclamations, media events, contests and school scholarship awards.” according to SandyHookPromise.org/StartWithHello.
The main aim of bringing this event to Meade is to raise awareness about social isolation and bullying.
“We hope this will begin conversations [for students] to recognize peers who are left out or ignored and to pull them in and include them,” Smith said. “[That] could be inviting them to eat with them at lunch, working with them on a classroom project or noticing others who are isolated or alone.”
The necessity for these types of programs to set an example for students is paramount, according to Smith.
“It is important for high school students to hear and see adults and students modeling kind behaviors daily,” she said. “It is just great to highlight it so it is magnified in the school building.
“Doing little things like handing out bracelets is a fun way to remind students to be kind to each other. It is so common on social media to start rumors, make fun and take part in group bullying anonymously and feel this is OK or accepted behavior.”
Master Sgt. Laura Lesche of the U.S. Army Field Band, who is a local coordinator with the Start With Hello campaign, approached members of Meade High’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club to propose hosting the campaign at the school. Lesche is volunteering with this project in a civilian capacity.
“I was really devastated by the Sandy Hook shooting,” she said. “I gave financially but wanted to do something more. I wanted to make a difference and have a positive impact and give the students an opportunity to connect with each other.”
As part of the campaign, SADD club members will promote messages of inclusion in the morning announcements.
On Tuesday, Lesche gave a presentation during lunch to discuss social inclusion with the students.
Today, students will participate in a “No One Eats Alone” lunch.
There also was a “Positivity Wall” in the lunch room, where students could post positive messages to their peers.
“We have not really done anything specifically with [the AACPS] Be Kind campaign, but our SADD club has been tackling tough issues all school year,” Smith said.
“Our purpose is to bring awareness and call students to action to prevent [issues] like distracted driving, drug and alcohol use, domestic and dating violence, bullying, mental health awareness and suicide, and vaping and tobacco use.”
To bring awareness to these issues, the SADD club has organized this year’s prom promise to focus on drinking and driving.
The club is also teaming up with shock trauma professionals to speak with Meade seniors about the dangers of drinking and driving and binge drinking.
For ninth-graders, SADD has organized a panel discussion on domestic violence and dating abuse on Feb. 22.