It's Cool to be Kind

October 25, 2019
COURTESY JOANNE MILLER

On August 30, college-sports fans celebrated College Colors Day. A fourth grader at Altamonte Elementary School, in Florida, wanted to show support for the University of Tennessee (U.T.) Volunteers. He didn’t have one of the team’s signature orange shirts. So he drew the U.T. logo on a piece of paper. Then he pinned the paper to an orange T-shirt. At school, other kids teased him for wearing it. “He was devastated,” his teacher Laura Snyder wrote online on September 4.

Snyder’s post caught the attention of U.T.’s president. On September 6, the university announced that it would use the student’s design for its official T-shirt. After this statement, the college store’s website had so many visitors that it crashed. “My student has definitely felt the love and support,” Snyder wrote online.

SCHOOL SPIRIT To celebrate a win, U.T.’s mascot, Smokey, wore a shirt like the bullied student’s.

TIM GANGLOFF—CSM/SHUTTERSTOCK

For a Cause

As of mid-September, more than 50,000 orders had been placed for the T-shirt. The student’s family had decided to donate proceeds from its sale. The money will go to Stomp Out Bullying. That’s a national organization. It opposes bullying and cyberbullying. The group has helped more than 5 million students resolve bullying situations. “It’s the most incredible thing for this family to give to a charity,” Ross Ellis told TIME for Kids. She started Stomp Out Bullying in 2005.

MAKING IT OFFICIAL This U.T. shirt features a fourth- grader’s design. More than 50,000 orders have been placed for the shirt.

STEVE MEGARGEE—AP PHOTO

Ellis says kids are finding ways to make the world kinder. “Kids just don’t want bullying in their schools anymore,” she says. “They’re tired of it.”

Ripple Effect

How can people prevent bullying? Ellis says they can become upstanders. An upstander supports someone who’s being bullied. Also, schools can do antibullying activities throughout October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month. Stomp Out Bullying posts them online.

In many schools, kindness is promoted beyond October. Joanne Miller is a fourth-grade teacher at Pride Elementary School. That’s in Deltona, Florida. She told TFK that her class wants to “start a kindness revolution.” Miller’s students call themselves the Kindness Squad. They wear special T-shirts. They greet other kids with kind words on Friday mornings. Deliana Black is on the Kindness Squad. She’s 9. “The small things we do for our class and our school make everyone happy,” she says.

MORNING CHEER The Kindness Squad greets students on a Friday.

COURTESY JOANNE MILLER

“One act starts a ripple effect,” Miller says. “If one person does something, then the next person does something, and the next.” Ellis, of Stomp Out Bullying, hopes the ripple effect started by the U.T. shirt will continue. The money donated from its sale, she says, “will go far in helping kids who haven’t been helped yet.”

Standing Together

The kindness revolution is happening in high schools, too. Lou Riolo is the principal of Carmel High School. That’s in New York. This year, he asked the graduating class to be silent when senior Jack Higgins took the stage at graduation. Jack has a form of autism. It makes him oversensitive to sound. Students gave Higgins a silent standing ovation.

QUIETLY KIND Students show respect for a graduating classmate.

CARMEL HIGH SCHOOL

TFK spoke with Higgins’s mom, Barbara. “It just takes a little bit of kindness and compassion [to think] about someone else,” she says. “If everybody did that for a minute a day, the world would just be amazing." —By Ellen Nam

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