By now you know that Luke started kindergarten. I mean, how can you not know? I’ve been talking about it for the past several weeks. My hope is that Luke has a positive elementary school experience. A more kinder experience than I had.
You see, I’m a first generation immigrant. My parents immigrated to America after the Vietnam War. Somehow we were placed in Albuquerque, NM. This was over 35 years ago. There wasn’t that many Asians or Asian Americans living there back then. I vaguely remember my first day of kindergarten where the teachers would kindly approach me and the kids would too. Everyone was being extra nice because they were told I couldn’t speak a lot of English. My kindergarten experience was a good one as far as I can remember.
As I got a bit older in elementary school though, things got a little bit different. Other kids made fun of me, called me names because I didn’t look like them. Some even told me they didn’t want to play with me because they said I didn’t belong in this country or that their parents told them they couldn’t play with me because of my race. I was even told to go back to where I came from. It really hurt me. I remember running to my 4th grade teacher (Mrs. Wilson) several times telling her what the kids said to me. One time, instead of punishing the other kids, she told me to stand up for who I am. I can’t change the way I looked but I can change the way I reacted to these kids. She told me to be proud of who am and that I needed to stand up for myself and my heritage and hopefully the kids will stop, listen, and be kind to me. Mrs. Wilson was African-American.
Thank goodness the name calling, being made fun of, and exclusion didn’t happen throughout elementary school and the rest of my education. I tried not focus on that negativity. In fact, I befriended and was befriended by some of nicest and kindest kids, including their parents, who were supportive of our friendship and invited me into their homes. My next door neighbors turned into my best childhood friends and treated me like their sister. They wanted to know more about my heritage. My teachers were supportive of my academics as well as helping me open up. These are the people that I choose to remember. These are the memories that I choose to share…the people who treated me with kindness and accepted me.
There is kindness in this world and there is hope that kindness prevails because it has showed me how to live my life and treat others.
And this is what I hope Luke can do for others in his classroom and school – BE KIND. Because kindness really does make a difference!
Staples for Students Kindness Summit
Last Thursday, I was honored to be invited to attend the Staples for Kindness Summit in Chicago. The event was hosted by Staples for Students in partnership with the Born This Way Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, which supports the wellness of young people and empowers them to create a kinder and braver world.
The first ever Staples for Students Kindness Summit brought together youth leaders, educators, and experts for an engaging discussion on the importance of promoting kindness in schools within Chicago and across America. Cynthia Germanotta spoke about her daughter’s struggles in middle school and what tools that she could’ve used to help her with her mental health back then.
Attending the event brought back some good and not so good memories of my elementary school experience but I left feeling inspired knowing that there are people and organizations out there who know and see what can happen in school for some kids and how to empower kids to be brave, to be kind.
The event couldn’t have happened at a better time since Luke just started started kindergarten. And the information I was given will be useful in how I can help Luke apply kindness in school.
A Recap of the Staples of Students Kindness Summit
The intimate gathering was held at Workshop Chicago for about 2 hours and brought together youth leaders, educators, and experts for an engaging discussion on the importance of promoting kindness in schools.
- Two young poets read their powerful poems about what they have been through in their lives.
- The Executive Director the Born This Way Foundation (Maya Enista Smith) presented the results of the kindness study around the nation as well as Illinois. This was an eye-opening study showing how far simple kindness can go in the classroom and why it’s so important to our children’s school experience and mental health.
- A panel discussion featuring top experts discussing kindness and mental health among youth across the country and in the state of Illinois. Members of the panel included: Raul Palacios, Ed.S., Research Assistant, Born This Way Foundation; Gerard Kovach, an 8th grade teacher at McCutcheon Elementary School in Chicago; and Kishoanda Johnson, a local young person who received Born This Way Foundation’s Channel Kindness Award for her work with The Night Ministry, a Chicago homelessness services organization.
- Attendees had the opportunity to volunteer a few minutes of their time to fill back packs with the basic necessity for local homeless youth.
At the summit, Staples announced that 890 teacher projects on DonorsChoose.org in the Chicago area will receive full funding as part of Staples’s $1 million donation to the organization. DonorsChoose.org is a charity that has funded more than 900,000 classroom projects for teachers since its founding, benefiting more than 22 million students. Now that’s kindness!
Earlier this month, Staples and Born This Way Foundation teamed up to create the Staples for Students Digital Kindness Tree to encourage people nationwide to promote kindness in schools and celebrate everyday acts of kindness. Consumers can help it grow by visiting www.StaplesKindnessTree.com or by Tweeting with hashtag #GrowKindness. On the website and Twitter, users have the opportunity to describe an act of kindness that they recently performed, witnessed or pledge to do. Each time an act of kindness is reported, a “leaf” will be added to the tree, which will continue to grow throughout the summer with each kind act reported.
What I Learned From Attending the Summit
Kindness is as Simple as a Hello – Young children seem to have a better school experience and mental health. This is because they say their teachers say hi to them. I think this is because early education teachers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to help with kids with their confidence. And as a society we are starting making some changes.
Kindness Helps Your State of Mind – Young kids who describe that their school environments as kind are likely to be mentally healthy.
What I Plan to Do After the Summit
I left the summit feeling this sense of inspiration to be more positive and kind in my life and hopefully adding that positive attitude to others. And just like the Staples Kindness Tree, Luke and I will draw and cut out a leaf to put on our wall for every act of kindness we perform (big or small). We hope to fill a whole wall in our home.
One of my favorite quotes: “The world is full of kind people. If you can’t find one, be one.”