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Shrewsbury students campaign for kindness

SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – Every once in a while, something so powerful comes along that it can literally shift your focus and change the nature of the work that you do. Last spring we learned about a movement and a documentary called Finding Kind. The goal of this initiative is to collect the stories and perspectives from females all over the country to spread awareness and to start a dialogue about the issue of female bullying. We opened a new school year and started to reflect on the possibilities for change in our own school culture by making one small shift in our perspective: change the conversation to focus on the positive instead of the negative in the words we use with each other and in the ways we demonstrate kindness and mutual respect.

Three initiatives are taking place at Oak Middle School this year aimed at providing all students, girls and boys, with tools to create positive changes that will help them to become better people. Each aspect of the initiative has the goal of building a positive school culture by tapping into our students’ natural tendencies to connect with something positive, celebrating their uniqueness, and forming relationships with staff and with peers.

On Thursday, January 12, 2012 we will have an assembly for just the boys in the school. They will view clips from The Blind Side and One Small Act. Both films are linked thematically and deal with the concept of choosing to act in a way that brings about positive change. Immediately following the film presentation, boys and male faculty members will get together in break out groups to process the films and the lager message of making a difference. Also on January 12, 2012, we will host an evening presentation. Mr. Paul Phillips will be our guest speaker. He will talk about what it means to ‘Make a Difference’, through your own character, in your school community, and through contributions to the global community. The evening event will take place at 7pm in the Oak Middle School auditorium. All families are welcome and the event is free. We are asking that families get a ticket to the event by visiting the following link: http://schools.shrewsburyma.gov/egov/docs/1322839941388.htm. This will help us keep track of how many guests we will be hosting that night.

The second event will take place on Monday, January 30, 2012. All female faculty and students will watch the documentary film Finding Kind. After the screening, the girls will transition into breakout groups for further processing and to deepen their understanding of the overarching themes of the movie. Breakout groups will be led by staff and girls from the UCONN sorority Delta Zeta. That same evening, we will host a screening of the film Finding Kind at 7 pm in the Oak Middle School auditorium, which will be open to the public. Oak Middle School is partnering with the Shrewsbury High School Parent Forum for this event. The ticket price will be $5.00 per family through Eventbrite (http://oakmiddle.eventbrite.com). Students will not be charged. Following the movie, there will be a panel discussion with school leaders, parents, and community members to raise awareness around the issues of bullying and to deepen understanding of the movie’s themes. Due to the somewhat mature conversation that takes place in the film, we are asking that no children younger than grade 7 attend. This is film whose target audience is adolescent girls.

The third component of this initiative is an extension project where students are challenged to take a closer look at the people in their lives. For The Faces of Kind and Making a Difference project, students will create a poster sized photograph of someone in their life who either embodies kindness or has made a difference in their life. Students will then write a six-word story to accompany the picture, essentially telling that person’s untold story of the impact that they have had on the lives of others. The posters are a visual reminder that kindness or the ability to make a difference exists in all of us if we simply choose to embrace it.

For more information about this initiative or to purchase tickets for Paul Phillips on January 12th or Finding Kind on January 30th, please visit our website: http://schools.shrewsbury-ma.gov/egov/docs/1322839941388.htm.

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