No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
That’s the motto at Julien Elementary School, where students took part in the campus’ first-ever Kindness Summit on Wednesday — an effort meant to promote empathy and understanding among some of Turlock’s smallest community members.
“It’s cliché, but our future is on this campus right now,” Julien Principal Jenny Henderson said. “We have to look at who we want leading our world, and we want kind people leading our world. That’s who our students are.”
Henderson was inspired to hold the Kindness Summit as an extension of the school’s “no bully” curriculum, which Julien adopted two years ago. The curriculum centers around tools that teach students how to handle different situations, whether it be taking time to breathe, asking for personal space, separating “big deals” from “little deals” and moving on from problems, as well as solution teams that help students experiencing bullying or committing bullying understand each other and the ramifications of their behavior.
Since implementing the no-bully curriculum, Henderson has seen major improvements in student behavior, she said.
“We have noticed a difference, and that’s self-regulation. As adults we are equipped with tools to help us deal with different things, but students aren’t equipped with those tools so we have to teach them,” Henderson said. “We’re seeing kids stand up for others and that’s amazing.”
The Kindness Summit took some of these themes and incorporated them into an entire day in an effort to reach the all student body, Henderson said.
“We’re working on building all of these different skills with our students, but we also recognize in this day and age that we need to build empathy for others in our students,” Henderson said. “We’re trying really hard to not make this a ‘one-and-done’ fun day, but truly have it become part of our culture.”
The day began with an assembly that featured a few special guests: Turlock High School student body representatives, who shared with the elementary students different ways that they could be kind to one another.
“As little kids, we always look up to the older kids. We are fortunate to have them right next door and they can set an example for our students,” Henderson said.
After the assembly, students had the chance to paint rocks, which will eventually be marked with words of kindness and placed along the path in the school’s new garden expansion. Henderson said each incoming class at Julien will be able to paint their own rocks, adding to the pathway as the years pass by.
While painting his rock, second grader Simon Mayer shared a moment where he was kind to his mom.
“I helped my mom once by crawling under the house to fix the sprinkler system,” he said. “Kindness is just being nice to others and my favorite part was seeing her face after I did that for her.”
Third grader Maeva Nichols also gave her perspective on kindness.
“It means to tell the truth to everyone. It’s important, because one time when I told the truth, I made new friends,” she said. “My friends were trying to play a trick on someone, so I told her what was going on. Then, we became friends with each other.”
Students in grades four through six served as “kindness ambassadors” throughout the day, going into classrooms and leading discussions about what it means to be kind and how to flip the script on hurtful behaviors. Moving forward, classrooms will take part in weekly random acts of kindness and in November, the campus will celebrate World Kindness Day by making bracelets that represent who they are using different colored beads.
“I hope this becomes part of who they become, where they lead their life with kindness, look back and embrace the examples we’ve worked to instill in them,” Henderson said.