HICKORY — Hickory Public Schools recently initiated a new system-wide kindness project, meant to encourage a more positive social atmosphere in each school.

All of the district’s employees and students will have the opportunity to catch someone sharing an act of kindness, the district’s director of communication Beverly Snowden said in an email. They can anonymously inform their school’s communication liaison using forms in the front office of their school or online at hickoryschools.net.

The employees or students will be surprised during the day with simple recognition, and a wall of kind faces will be built on the school system’s website, Snowden said.

The project was sparked by a discussion between Snowden and Hickory High volunteer theater teacher Molly Bass, who will be building a “kindness wall” to display kindness bubbles with positive messages sent by students and staff.

Bass got the idea after seeing a kindness wall in New York City during World Kindness Day.

The display will travel from school to school in the district, and the goal is to have every Hickory Public Schools student fill out a bubble for the wall, Bass said.

“With all the violence and dismay happening in our nation, in particular targeting our schools and places where people can’t defend themselves, it’s nice to see an initiative that focuses on just being kind,” the district’s superintendent Robbie Adell said.

Students from Hickory High School (HHS) and Hickory Career and Arts Magnet High (HCAM) talked about the social environment of their school and what they think of the kindness project.

Hickory High School

Sidney Brockenborough

“The fact that we’re at a school means the central focus should be our education, so the social aspect can be tense at times,” Brockenborough said. “I think this allows people to know even though sometimes there are tensions and bad things going on, kindness can prevail. We can’t necessarily stop people who chose to do bad things or stop people who chose to bully others, but we can emphasize kindness more.”

Eric Betancourt

“We focus essentially on what we have to do to graduate, and we set goals for ourselves,” Betancourt said. “Then you hear from other people that there are some struggling with things, and all you really want to do is help.”

He would like to see a “buddy system” created to match those who can help with those who need it at the school.

Kate Daniels

“The environment at Hickory High can be tense at times. There are disagreements among students. Sometimes it’s just people who don’t get along and different personalities and how they mesh together,” Daniels said. “Overall, if we’re able to go with this kindness project, we can help the tension and the differences between people.”

Savannah King

“I feel the climate at Hickory High is moody. It depends on the day. Some days it’s really positive and good and upbeat. Other times it’s school,” King said. “Sometimes it can be a really negative space for some people. You should wake up and say ‘Hey, let’s go to school today, let’s go learn something, let’s have fun.’ It should be your safe place, your fun place, your good vibe time.”

Sallie LeFevers

“I think the tension that is created in Hickory High School is because of the competitiveness, especially for anything after high school like college. I think this kindness project will be able to open people’s eyes to see how people feel in another’s shoes,” LeFevers said. “I think this will be able to allow us to give complements out and receive complements to help other feel better.”

Tri Pham

He thinks the environment at the school can be either positive or negative.

“Everybody has a choice and can make their own decisions. You just have to have the drive to make it what you want. I think this is a good idea because everybody needs a little bit of positive encouragement to motivate them to learn and grow.”

Emma Salyards

“There will always be people who butt heads, but a lot of times conflict can come from people not being able to empathize with others and understand where they’re coming from or what their experiences have been,” Salyards said. “Once you understand someone, it’s a lot easier to want to form a connection with them and be kind to everyone around you.”

Jose Saucedo

“I believe this is a really good step to change. Everybody has a different lifestyle, and we have different problems of our own. We just try to solve them as best we can,” Saucedo said. “I think everybody’s voice should be heard; that way we get everybody’s opinions and perspectives.”

Felicity Sherrill

“The climate at Hickory High is all right. Most days, I don’t really want to be there. It depends on the day, but with this program, you never know what somebody is going through at home, so they might need this every day.”

Jaekwon Staton

“For me, school is school. Programs like this are very essential so they can set a standard for the next generation,” Staton said. “These programs are well-needed to spread more positivity, peace.”

Nantida Thao

“I feel like when people show their true selves, other people aren’t kind enough to them, so people are afraid because you get judged based on what you show,” Thao said. “I feel like Hickory High has to be more accepting. I feel this program will allow students to open up and accept each other, because everyone judges another person.”

Hickory Career and Arts Magnet

Jessica Edwards

“I feel like HCAM is a completely different school from Hickory High. It’s a lot more of a tight-knit community,” Edwards said. “Where you see a minority at Hickory High it is actually the majority at HCAM. Between races, sexual identity, however people stand, they’re a lot closer together. I see this program as helping people get past the social anxiety of talking to other people.”

Brian Lee

“The climate at HCAM is very diverse and we’re a melting pot. Anybody can talk to anyone. We don’t judge by how you look. We judge by action,” Lee said.

“I love this program. I wish instead of it just being in Hickory, why don’t we expand and go to other places. Kindness is everywhere. We just need to take one step at a time.”

Camara Moore

“If they’re not accepted at their own school, other students know there is a place for them here where they can totally be weird and geek out because no one is going to care because most likely 95 percent of the population completely agrees with you,” Moore said. “One thing though I feel needs to change, is we typically tend to be very tight-knit with our own grade levels.”

Tessa Rodriguez

“We are a very diverse school and we’re very close and sometimes that’s a good thing but also sometimes that’s not such a good thing because being close means you know everything that’s going on,” Rodriguez said. “There are some things that sometimes we don’t want to be bothered with, but it’s good to know there are people who are accepting of each other.”

For more information about the project, click here. 

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John Bailey is the education reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.

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