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Stagg students pass along virtues of kindness

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Photo by Kelly White

Reem Shanab, 17, of Palos Hills, signed the Kindness Banner on Sept. 18 at Stagg High School in Palos Hills.

By Kelly White

Students at Stagg High School are teaching one another about what it means to be kind.

Through a 21-day project taking place from Sept. 1 through Sept. 21 at the high school, 8015 W. 111th St., Palos Hills, called the #BeKind21 Challenge, students are taking a more caring approach to both the classroom setting and social media.

“This is a great way to kick off the school year on a positive note and to reaffirm to our students that Stagg is a safe and positive community,” said Mary Reynolds, special services teacher at Stagg High School. “We feel doing this will give our students a sense of empowerment and encourage them to be thoughtful in their actions to self and others.”

Reynolds was responsible for organizing the program along with Shannon Mongan, social worker at Stagg.

The idea was modeled after Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and Teen Mental Health First Aid’s 21 day kindness challenge.

“We both follow Born This Way Foundation’s social media and when we saw they were promoting the challenge, we decided to team up and launch the #BeKind21 Challenge at Stagg High School,” Reynolds said.

“The challenge is easy and fun. It promotes positivity and a sense of community among the staff and students,” Mongan said. “It teaches our students that acts of kindness can be simple and rewarding. It also teaches students that acts of kindness don’t always have to be about doing something kind for others but also taking care of yourself.”

A highlight of the challenge was enforcing kindness through social media. Members of Stagg staff encouraged both students and staff to participate in the #BeKind21 Twitter challenge. The purpose of the Twitter challenge was for participants too send one tweet everyday for 21 days focusing on an act of kindness.

“The #BeKind21 Challenge has allowed me to check myself and make sure to be kind in my actions every day,” said Suaad Rashid, 17, of Worth. “Every tweet is a constant reminder for me to do something nice for people whether it is my friends, family, teachers, or strangers. It goes to show how we can truly make the world a better place with every action, big or small, and also reminds me that doing a kind act may not change my world, but it may change the world for someone else.”

“There are new constantly new tweets and it really brightens your day,” said Tala Alrifaiy, 16, of Palos Hills.

Some tweets include a simple thank you or good morning just to brighten someone’s day, with each message being positive.

“I like that it is easy for all students to participate in,” Reynolds said. “Students spend a lot of time on social media, so this was an easy and effective way to get them involved. Our staff and students practice kindness on a daily basis anyway; the #BeKind21 Challenge is a great way to draw attention to the positive nature of Stagg.”

Throughout the 21-day challenge, activities encouraging acts of kindness were also hosted during regular lunch hours for students. Some of the acts of kindness included decorating a lunch bag for the Kids Food Basket, making a button with a positive message for a friend, writing a thank you note to Palos Hills’ first responders, writing get well cards to a member of the Stagg community who is in recovery from a mountain biking accident over the summer, and signing a kindness banner to be hung in the school’s entrance way promising to be kind.

Students and staff members alike were also welcomed in to the new school year with positive notes reading, “We are glad you’re here” taped to student lockers and placed in new staff mailboxes.

“In the world we live in today, people often belittle or are intolerant towards those who are different than them,” said Morgan Sukalo, 16, of Palos Hills. “The #BeKind21 Challenge has its eyes set on changing this.”

Sukalo, along with many other students, said the challenge has been positively affecting both the school community and her as a person.

“I like how the BeKind21 Challenge is trying to create a habit out of performing acts of kindness on the part of students and staff alike. I feel that forcing oneself out of one’s comfort zone is essential in developing positive character traits like being personable, accepting, and hardworking, and the BeKind21 Challenge is without a doubt enforcing this,” Sukalo said.

“The challenge brings people together and is making everyone happier,” said Emily Ciezobka, 17, of Hickory Hills.

“We’re interacting with people we might not have before,” said Reem Shanab, 17, of Palos Hills. “The entire challenge has helped to create countless new friendships among Stagg students.”

The faculty agreed.

“The #BeKind21 challenge is an extension of what we do every day at Stagg High School,” said Kathy Reilly, a Stagg teacher. “Our students and staff have a strong sense of community and we create an atmosphere that lifts each other up throughout the day. We are accountable to one another to be respectful and kind in all arenas; from the classroom, to the hallways, during activities and practices. The virtue of kindness demonstrated and celebrated with the #BeKind21 challenge, is why I absolutely love working at Stagg High School.”

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