Getting a paper chain to stretch almost 2 miles from Eggert Elementary to South Davis Elementary in Orchard Park presented some logistical challenges, so the celebration had to happen in another way.
More than 800 kids from the two schools gathered Monday at The Hub in Hamburg to celebrate the more than 10,000 acts of kindness they performed through the Rachel’s Challenge program.
After the death of Rachel Joy Scott in the Columbine High School shooting of 1999 in Colorado, students shared stories of how her simple acts of kindness positively affected them. The challenge was created to promote a safer and more connected school community through acts of random kindness.
The kids at Eggert and South Davis could perform acts of kindness at home, on the bus or at school. With each act, they earned a paper link.
Bins with the construction paper were set up at the schools and buses so all the students had to do was write their names when an adult saw them do a kind act. Teachers put the chains together at the end of the week and hung them up in the classroom and school halls. The colored paper was a way for students to tangibly see their impact and celebrate kindness all year, said Susan Beyer, a fourth-grade resource room teacher at Eggert.
“Every kind act brings on another kind act,” Beyer said.
The goal was to create a “chain of kindness” with construction paper spanning the 1.9 miles between the schools. It would take them 8,977 links to achieve. By the time of the celebration there were 10,668 links.
But school officials decided to hold the celebration at one site instead of stretching from school to school.
Students at Eggert and South Davis took the challenge at the beginning of the school year. Eggert participated in the program before, but South Davis did for the first time after seeing the impact it had in Eggert, said Michelle Lilleck, a special education teacher at Eggert.
“It has absolutely changed the culture of our building,” Lilleck said. “It’s not just doing acts of kindness. It’s including others and being a good friend. So it really encompasses what we’re trying to teach the kids about character.”
For two years Natalie Kassirer, a fifth-grader at Eggert, has accepted Rachel’s challenge, and every year she said her school gets a little nicer.
Her favorite act of kindness is helping people when they drop something, like their pencils, on the floor. She likes to be there to swoop in and lend a hand.
Beyer has noticed this as one of the most common acts, and it makes cleanup a whole lot faster.
“Every kiddo in that area stops playing their game to help their friend,” Beyer said.
In her 16 years of teaching, Beyer said she has never known a kinder group of kids, and they keep getting nicer every year.
Terry Tyron, principal of Eggert, said he hopes to grow the program within the district next school year.
“It really does root the whole concept of kindness in the community,” Tyron said.
Tyron said he’s noticed adults at school are being kinder, too.
“You have to be the role model,” Tyron said.