Lewisville ISD is continuing its effort of making kindness a way of life.
A week before school started, LISD hosted a Kindness Convocation to bring together students from each high school and ninth-grade campus. The message was simple – be kind to each other.
Nearly 1,000 students, or student ambassadors, attended the event, which took place at Leo C. Stuver Auditorium in Lewisville. It included a speech from Susie Carter, the founder and president of Lewisville-based Mixed Media Creations, in which she shared stories of her past and how she incorporates kindness not only in her personal life but in her company as well. In fact, during the interview process she asks individuals to detail a time they were kind at work.
“It’s important because you don’t know how it’s going to affect someone’s everyday life,” said Semi Ojerinde, a kindness ambassador and senior at Lewisville High School.
Ojerinde and other students from each school also spoke about the importance of kindness and drew from their own experiences. Having students speak was a change from last year’s event when Houston Craft from the organization Character Strong led the entire event.
Andy Plunkett, assistant chief of schools who helped organize the Kindness Convocation, said the idea to tweak the format came to him last spring after attending Flower Mound High School’s Circle of Friends prom, an even in which students accompany special needs students to their prom.
“They had two students talk about how that had changed their lives,” Plunkett said. “Giving made them a better person. So we decided to let our kids tell the stories.”
For example, Garrett Karbs, a senior at Marcus High School, talked about the one friend in his group that always seemed to be the butt of jokes and how that changed.
“It’s important to realize what position they’re put in,” Karbs said. “We need to build that person up based on compassion, not jokes.”
The ambassadors challenged the other students to make kindness a part of their lives.
“Kindness comes in big or small acts,” said Nithy Abraham, The Colony senior. “Everything makes a difference.”
Abraham discussed an initiative at TCHS called “warm and fuzzies.” On the first day of Kindness Week, which runs Aug. 19-23, students will give others a piece of yarn to tie around their finger, followed by a compliment. She said the idea came from a children’s tale.
“The goal was to challenge the ambassadors to make a difference,” Plunkett said. “We weren’t sure how the students would respond because they pushed them out of their comfort zones. Those kids were amazing. It was the right call.”
During Kindness Week there will be various themes and social media challenges at each school to encourage students to help others.
The effort began in the fall of 2018 when LISD hosted its first Kindness Convocation, followed by various events throughout the year to reinforce what the students learned.
Plunkett said while it can be hard to quantify how effective the effort has been, he has seen plenty to show that it has made a difference.
He said the essays students fill out to apply for a Lewisville Education Foundation (LEF) scholarship is one example.
“The stories the students told about being an ambassador, how they help others and how it changed them was amazing,” Plunkett said.
Karbs said he also noticed a difference last year, such as the number of students approaching students they didn’t know and talking to them.
Plunkett said the message wasn’t just limited to the students.
“One theme I hear from principals is that they kept kindness at the forefront of the decisions that they made,” Plunkett said.
All students who attended the Kindness Convocation received an event T-shirt, bracelet and ID lanyard, and they were treated to a barbecue dinner prior to the event. Many of them also took with them a sense of hope.
“We have the opportunity to make a change with 1,000 people committed to this,” Karbs said.