Kindness fills the halls at Lincoln High

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 19, 2018

 From left, Lincoln High School senior D.J.  Evans, juniors Madison MacKinnon and Maria Goggins-Jarrett, freshman Ryli Welch, and senior Melvin Ameen collected strips of paper with kindness words written on them from various classrooms. The students assembled them to hang in the school during  Kindness Week Feb. 12-16.

From left, Lincoln High School senior D.J. Evans, juniors Madison MacKinnon and Maria Goggins-Jarrett, freshman Ryli Welch, and senior Melvin Ameen collected strips of paper with kindness words written on them from various classrooms. The students assembled them to hang in the school during Kindness Week Feb. 12-16.

Photo by Deb Jacques

WARREN — Hearts made from construction paper with messages of “Be Kind” and “Being Kind Is Never Wasted” that decorated classroom doors were among the many ways that Lincoln High School students celebrated the school’s first-ever Kindness Week.

From Feb. 12 to 16, the students participated in activities geared to promote kindness within the school and to help students make new friends. Lincoln is part of Van Dyke Public Schools.

“The whole Kindness Week is a districtwide initiative that came from a health committee,” LHS Principal Billie Sczepaniak said. “The idea was to do something to draw attention and raise awareness to treat each other respectfully. At the high school level, we were able to bring it to our students.”

Unfortunately, students don’t always get along, hence the idea behind Kindness Week.

“It’s something we recognize, especially with social media,” Sczepaniak said. “There are always little issues, and they keep it going with social media.”

The school’s various clubs — with help from their advisers — put together a list of activities for the week that included theme days and team-building lessons. Organizers placed motivational magnets on lockers, hung kindness posters around the building, attached inspirational quotes on mirrors in bathrooms, distributed kindness cards and watched student-created kindness-themed videos. Students also could earn kindness rewards based on their behavior.     

Students were encouraged to sign a kindness pledge, create chain links of kindness, help pack food for Gleaners Community Food Bank and more. On Feb. 15, the students were required to sit in the cafeteria during lunchtime with students they did not know. Students had fun when their class schedules ran backward, starting at sixth hour first thing in the morning and finishing out the day with their normal first hour.

The clubs that planned everything included the Principal Leadership Group, the Superintendent Leadership Group, student council, Students Against Destructive Decisions, the National Honor Society and the Gay/Straight Alliance Club, known as SAFE.

Sczepaniak said that during Kindness Week, staff reportedly heard more “please” and “thank-yous” from the students. The student body also better followed the school’s lunchtime procedures.

Junior Andre Vance said Kindness Week was about “being good to people and building up their self-esteem.”

“Everyone is being nicer this week,” he said. “Some kids, they fight each other over stuff that’s not important. This is such a good experience.”

On Feb. 15, Vance sat at lunch with three freshman students he didn’t know.

“I introduced myself and they told me their names,” he said.

Sophomore Kierre Spencer helped prepare the events.

“We just want people to feel welcome and pull them out of their comfort zones and get them used to being here. It’s important to have that one friend or a couple of friends you can go to and talk to,” Spencer said. “I’ve seen kids not feel welcome, and that’s just not right.”

Spencer himself went through a period in which he felt very alone. He was a student at Lincoln Elementary School and while in the third grade, he transferred to another school. He then returned to the district to attend Lincoln Middle School. Things changed when another student he did not know began talking to him, which opened up the door for him to make more friends. Now he has plenty of pals at school.

Cognitive impaired teacher Elizabeth Trelfa is the adviser for NHS and SAFE and was among the advisers who helped plan last week’s activities.

“Kindness Week has been doing really well,” Trelfa said. “We’re just trying to reach out to people to be more positive. We’re trying to let the kids know they may think somebody sitting by themselves is OK, but they might not be.”

Trelfa said students already are looking at what they can do next year to make Kindness Week even more successful.