How 3 Students Stepped Up to Win a National Kindness Award

Courage, vulnerability, and compassion, all characteristics of a Change Creator.

This is an inspiring story about three young students at Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School who entered a National Kindness Challenge and it will inspire you just as it has inspired me. In their own way, they are creating the change they want to see in the world.

Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School has long been plagued with violence and segregation, and its students have faced significant challenges inside and outside the classroom.

To put it in perspective, in one 13-person class:

  • 11 students have seen someone get shot,
  • 11 have an absent parent,
  • 12 have a family member in jail and;
  • 13 have been detained and questioned by the police

Stepping Up!

Needless to say, Robert E. Lee is not a place you’d expect to find kindness and empathy  – that is, until one visionary teacher, Ms. Amy Donofrio, and three of her ambitious students stepped up.

Earlier this year, Ms. D., Billy, Chris and Nick decided – on a whim – to enter a national Kindness Challenge hosted by Making Caring Common (a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education) and The KIND Foundation (a nonprofit started by healthy snack company KIND).

The task at hand? Create and implement a project that addressed barriers to kindness and inclusivity at school.

In their application, they wrote:

“Our goal is to make our classmates realize that even though someone might seem different from you on the surface, your lives might be similar.”

They set up a bulletin board where they posted about different issues, such as losing a sibling or facing homelessness.

Next to the board they placed a box of post-it notes and their peers were encouraged to post if they too had faced that issue.

Posting, of course, required a fair bit of openness and vulnerability. But slowly, and then quickly, the post-its added up.

According to their teacher, the project – called #YourStoryIsMine – had a tremendous effect.

“Despite the animosity, the kids started being kind. They realized they could relate to each other.” (Ms. D)

Rewarding Courage

Today, June 1 2017, Billy, Chris and Nick are about to find out they’ve beat dozens of other entries to win the grand prize.

These brave students who decided to do something different and take real action for change, will each receive a monetary award, and the school will receive a donation from The KIND Foundation to sustain the project through the next academic year.

Their ideas will also be incorporated into a toolkit that will be distributed to teachers nationwide.

Kindness and change can thrive even in the most unlikely places if you have the courage to act.


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