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Fed up with kids being mean, students start kindness club at Crystal Lake’s Bernotas Middle School

When two local students noticed kids being mean to each other at their Crystal Lake middle school, they decided to take matters into their own hands by starting a kindness club.

Nola Neilson and Olivia Craigen, two seventh graders at Bernotas Middle School, got the idea from Nola’s mom, Kim Neilson, a social worker who started kindness clubs in Fox River Grove School District 3 and Huntley School District 158, where she currently works.

When the girls were having dinner together one day, they told Kim Neilson about some instances they saw at school in which kids weren’t being very nice to each other.

With kids starting to care more about popularity, it seemed like more hate also was going around, Olivia and Nola said.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense,” Nola said. “We’re all people.”

Neilson suggested starting a kindness club at Bernotas.

“We decided to give it a whirl, and it’s actually turned out pretty well,” Nola said.

After making a slideshow that they shared with Bernotas Principal Kellie Marks, the girls found a teacher to sponsor the club and started meeting in November. So far, they’ve made paper ornaments, designed posters with quotes about kindness they put around the school and wrote positive messages on the sidewalk in chalk.

Recently, the club did a “Kindness Rocks” activity, where they painted rocks and put them around Bernotas for other people to find.

About nine kids regularly show up to meetings, and they always chat and get along, Olivia said.

“It’s really fun,” Olivia said. “We all know each other now.”

Olivia Craigen and Nola Neilson started a Kindness Club at Bernotas Middle School recently in an effort to prevent bullying.

Olivia Craigen and Nola Neilson started a Kindness Club at Bernotas Middle School recently in an effort to prevent bullying. (Photo Provided/)

For Olivia, the kindness club showed her that there are people out there who want to be nice.

“The kindness club [helps] more people to be able to stand out and to be able to share their emotions and feelings,” Olivia said. “Having a group makes people feel stronger so that they can stop bullying if they see anything.”

At the club, kids will talk through different scenarios where being kind might be difficult and come up with ideas to handle them, Neilson said.

“They’ve really just taken off with it,” Neilson said. “It’s cool to see my daughter take it and run with it. … The kindness club for her is about creating a welcoming environment where anybody can come.”

Bernotas has multiple policies in place when it comes to preventing bullying and teaching social and emotional skills at the school, Marks said, including a spot on its website where students can anonymously report problems they’re having. The school also has community circles, during which students and teachers gather to have a “healthy dialogue” about interpersonal skills.

Marks said she’s excited for any club directed toward being kind.

One of the best parts about working with middle schoolers is that the students are “creative and mature enough to come up with these ideas and take the reins on these clubs,” Marks said.

The kindness club plans on participating in the Great Kindness Challenge in January, in which people are tasked with completing random acts of kindness throughout a week, and celebrating Random Acts of Kindness month in February.

In the future, Nola wants the club to participate in a food drive.

“Kindness is also about helping people that need it,” she said. “I really hope we can do bigger things. … School is one place, but around the world is another.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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