#PassItOn: 17 Acts of Kindness

PELHAM – Instead of walking out of class on Wednesday, March 14, as a part of the ENOUGH: National School Walkout, students at Pelham High School participated in 17 Acts of Kindness in honor of the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting on Valentine’s Day.

The walkout was planned to take place at 10 a.m. across all time zones in honor of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and in support of stricter gun laws.

“When I initially heard about the walkout I thought it wasn’t a good idea safety wise or for instructional time,” PHS Principal Amanda Wilbanks said.

Wilbanks said she approached the Principal’s Advisory Board to discuss alternative ideas to walking out of class. Wilbanks and the advisory board decided on 17 Acts of Kindness – an idea they got from social media.

“I’m so proud of the students for being so quick to help and for finding, in my opinion, a better way to honor those students. The students had already planned everything out for the 17 Acts of Kindness, but we acknowledged that it should really be 18,” Wilbanks said in reference to Huffman High School student Courtlin Arrington who was shot at school on March 7.

Instead of walking out of class on March 14, students were encouraged to perform acts of kindness throughout the day. Wilbanks said the advisory board came up with 17 acts students could participate in.

“We hashed out the plans in about an hour and each student left the meeting and used their personal time to get this done and get the word out to students,” Wilbanks said.

Wilbanks said emails were sent out to parents informing them of the student-led alternatives to walking out and to let them know that the school was not in favor of students walking out of class.

“We had been promoting it all week,” Wilbanks said. “Don’t walk out, walk up to someone and be kind.”

On the day of the walkout, Wilbanks said there were enough activities going on to keep students engaged and not one student attempted to leave the building. One activity included passing on positive affirmations.

“Members of the Principal’s Advisory Board put sticky notes with positive affirmations and encouraging words on students’ lockers, and if you got a message you were supposed to pass it on by writing a positive affirmation and putting it on someone else’s locker,” Wilbanks said.

Other activities included sitting with someone new at lunch and hanging posters with positive messages throughout the school. The school’s broadcast journalism class interviewed students for a video and asked them questions about who they turn to in times of trouble or when they’re sad.

“The goal was to help them realize that they have people in their lives who care about them and their wellbeing,” Wilbanks said.

Another portion of the video showed broadcast students approaching students in the hallway and giving random compliments.

“The reactions on their faces were priceless,” Wilbanks said. “A lot of teachers showed that video to their students at 10 a.m.”

The school is planning to participate in a second national school walkout on April 20, on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

“We are planning on having an activity for students at a specified time,” Wilbanks said. “Students who would like to participate will walk out and go to a designated area where there will be an activity for them to participate in.”

Wilbanks said the walkout will be supervised and brief enough not to disturb instructional time.