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Evans Middle School Becomes a Force for Kindness

Shane Mauldin|
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Evans Middle School committed more than 5,000 acts of kindness during their "Be a Force for Kindness" challenge.

Evans Middle School committed more than 5,000 acts of kindness during their "Be a Force for Kindness" challenge.

McKinney, Texas – Middle schoolers have their own distinctive way of interacting with the world. But, for all the curious idiosyncrasies that seem to accompany those years, one finds that when pointed in the right direction, these students possess an energy and enthusiasm that is unparalleled.

Which is why Evans Middle School’s “Be a Force for Kindness” initiative in late January—inspired by the Great Kindness Challenge—unleashed a deluge of thousands of intentional, thoughtful acts of goodwill on their campus. And, it opened a lot of students’ eyes to the fact that even small gestures of kindness can have a tremendous impact.

Evans counselor Cathy DeLisle and dyslexia teacher Pamela Parkman

“I love these kids. I really do,” said dyslexia teacher Pamela Parkman. “Just when you think they are not listening, they really are.”

Parkman was caught completely off guard when students showed up one afternoon, unannounced, at her classroom door with a gift basket filled with her favorite things. And, the students were caught off guard by the depth of her reaction and gratitude.

“She was glowing,” said eighth grader Jackson Davis, who was one of the students behind the gift. “That’s the happiest I’ve ever seen somebody. It made my day. It was just great.”

Evans Middle School students surprise Evans teacher Georgia Bell with a gift bag during the “Be a Force for Kindness” challenge.

Moments like that were happening all over Evans Middle School—students showing up at teachers’ doors with flowers and gifts; delivering notes of encouragement to other students and staff members; creating thank you posters for the custodians and cafeteria staff. One afternoon, students plastered the staff parking lot with cards under windshield wipers that expressed their appreciation for their teachers.

A display in one of the halls at Evans reflected the Star Wars influenced theme of “Be a Force for Kindness”—an expanse of black butcher paper dotted with a galaxy’s worth of gold stars, each representing an act of kindness that had been put into action at Evans.

McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel praises the efforts of Evans Middle School students for taking on the challenge to show kindness.

McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel visited the campus to see some this kindness in action, “I have visited many campuses across our district that have embraced the kindness challenge this year and last year,” McDaniel said. “I am as impressed with what the Evans Middle School student body is doing as I am any other campus in our district. I’m very proud of the efforts of the leaders on the campus as well as the students. They are making a huge difference in our district.”

At the beginning of the effort, teachers were challenged to come up with ideas that the students in each of their classes could put into action. With around 1,000 students and seven classes a day…that’s a lot of goodwill.

Evans Middle School Orchestra teachers Chris Bryan and Debra Scott read kind notes sent to them by students.

“I love that the challenge was put forth to all the teachers and all the kids,” said Evans counselor Errin French, “and that they fully embraced it and that they all came up with such unique ways to be kind.”

Orchestra teachers Chris Bryan and Debra Scott received notes during class and read them aloud in front of their students.

“‘Mr. Bryan, you are one of my favorite teachers that can always make me laugh when I’m down. I hope that you keep on teaching and you keep up the fun,’” Bryan read, then added with a smile, “This is going on my wall.”

Evans Middle School created a display to give students feedback on how many acts of kindness they had accomplished.

Scott read her note, “‘Mrs. Scott, hello, thanks for being the great teacher that helps me out with any problems I come across with. I like how you can always cheer others up. Keep on swimming.’” With emotion in her voice, Scott explained, “[Keep on swimming is] something we say…That’s so sweet. Thank you!”

Coach Kate Bradham came to the final sentence of a note delivered to her during her science class, “‘I hope you know that a lot of people love you,’” she read, through a teary smile.

Evans Middle School student Orlando Castellanos reads a kind note sent to him from another student as Evans counselor Cathy DeLisle looks on.

The school prefaced all of these efforts with lessons on giving compliments—because, let’s face it, sometimes even adults need help with that. Students were encouraged to consider the power of words with a quote from Frederick Henry Lynch: “Idle words are characterless and die upon utterance. Evil words rankle for awhile, make contentions, and then die. But the hopeful, kind, cheering word sinks into a man’s heart and goes on bearing fruit forever…Speak hopeful words every chance you get.”

But, the week went beyond gifts and notes. The school also collected socks and hygiene items for the Trusted World organization, which helps other charitable organizations by relieving the burden of sourcing, collecting, sorting and storing resources like clothing, shoes, toiletries and non-perishable food. Evans’ goal was to collect 3,000 items.

This banner sums up the heart behind “Be a Force for Kindness.”

“We didn’t get a final count before Trusted World picked up,” said Evans counselor Cathy DeLisle. “We got to 2,500 and then had a tidal wave of donations at the last minute. Even as Trusted World showed up to pick up, more came in as we were loading.”

As far as acts of kindness go, DeLisle estimates that there were more than 5,000 that took place during the week. Here are some of the activities not previously mentioned that the kids put into action:

—welcome signs from the Live Kind Club
—kindness quotes in all books check out from the library
—notes of encouragement to soldiers in boot camp
—letters written to show support for troops abroad
—over $700 raised to save Koalas in Australia
—athletes picking up trash around the campus
—NJHS providing treats to staff
—orchestra playing for cafeteria employees
—cards and treats for Boyd PALS who assist special education students at Evans
—Post-it notes of encouragement on lockers
—words of encouragement from eighth graders to sixth graders before STAAR
—choir students doing extra chores at home
—face to face compliments in eighth grade history and theatre where students gave each other compliments
—cheerleaders giving encouraging notes to players
—cheerleaders greeting teachers as they arrived
—eighth grade science class honoring custodian with gift cards for dinner and kind notes that they translated in to Vietnamese using Google translate

Evans Middle School students celebrated kindness they put into action at home. This student helped her brother by taking his laundry to his room.

Today, perhaps more than ever, it’s challenging to shift focus from one’s own concerns to what might help somebody else with theirs. But, Evans Middle School took advantage of an opportunity to experience a week immersed in kindness, to see firsthand how simple, intentional acts of goodwill can make a difference in someone else’s day.

And, even though they may not continue writing kind notes to one another on a daily basis (or maybe they will), perhaps the experience has made each person more keenly aware of those times when someone else needs help—and that maybe they can be that help.

And, that’s a reminder that’s probably good for all of us.

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