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Faculty, parent volunteers and students all participate in making Kindness Week at Jerabek Elementary School a popular and successful event. (courtesy of Laura Stephens)
Kindness is cool at Jerabek school
By John Gregory

In the midst of a materialistic world in which rudeness and selfishness grows, a bright bloom of caring, sharing and kindness has risen and continues to blossom at Jerabek Elementary School, right here in Scripps Ranch.

This righteous blossom arrived in the form of Kindness Week, the first of which was held last spring. It will be held a total of three times this school year.  One was held the week of Oct. 16. The next two are scheduled for Jan. 8-12 and April 9-13, 2018.

Kindness Week originated from an idea by Laura Stephens, a Jerabek parent volunteer and the leader of Kindness Week.

"A couple of my friends and I were talking and we just really wanted the kids to be able to focus in on approaching the world with kindness because of that being such an issue in our world now," Stephens explained. "So, we just got together and decided we wanted to really make it a primary focus in the school and find ways for the kids to keep it on their minds all year long, not just when it's spoken about once-in-a-while."

Stephens said the concept arose because of the general state of the world and the fact that a violent robbery occurred one night at the small market just up the street from the school last spring.

"Toward the end of the school year I approached the principal and asked her if we could do something along these lines and had a couple ideas how to incorporate it into curriculum and make it fun for the kids — kind of a peer-to-peer thing," Stephens said.

The first version last spring included basic class activities, curriculum for the teachers, some websites the students could visit with a little mindfulness and kindness, meditations and art projects. This year, more elements and fun activities have been added.

"Last year, we had a proclamation from the city and the county … declaring it Jerabek Kindness Week," Stephens said.

This Jerabek fifth grader models her shirt with the message "Kindness is the New Cool." (courtesy of Laura Stephens)


She said it was so popular that a request came about to hold Kindness Week again this school year, and now the school's Family Faculty Organization is sponsoring it. The idea is to hold it once after school begins, once after winter break and again soon after Spring Break to keep it on the minds of the students.

"This time we had a lot of participation from the Student Council," Stephens said. "They all went around and made posters that went up all over the school with sayings about kindness."

Beyond the focus on kindness throughout the week in the classrooms, the program features peer-to-peer interaction. The students have opportunities to practice kindness each day with one another. The children are encouraged to be aware of acts of kindness and give each other "Caught Being Kind" cards when they witness acts of kindness. Students can redeem their cards at the end of each day for kindness bracelets.

"We had tables out every day after school, and (volunteers) gave out the kindness bracelets, listening to what the kids did to be kind that day," Stephens explained. "I ended up having about 20 volunteers sign up to staff the tables every day. It was great. People got excited about it."

The big week ended with a special celebration outside on the field.

"We culminate the week with a final Kindness Rally and Popsicle Dance Party on Friday," she said. "That's the end of the week celebrating everything that's gone on."

Dan Cohen of TV Channel 8 News emceed the party. Cohen, a Scripps Ranch resident, has a son who attends Jerabek Elementary.

"Even though it down poured on us while we were out there, we had great fun," Stephens said.

"We had so many wonderful parent volunteers who reached out and said, 'I really want to be involved,'" she said.

While Kindness Week appears to be a major project that would take hours upon hours to plan, organize and execute, Stephens said she can't estimate the amount of time she has dedicated to the event. In fact, she didn't seem to be fazed about the effort. Her professional career involves advising nonprofit organizations with developing business strategies that will help them grow.

"I'm always in the volunteer mode, so it doesn't really seem like I break out that time separately from my time at work," she said.

Stephens said she also hosted Jerabek's annual Movie Night at the beginning of the school year, worked on the school's Spring Fling annual fundraising gala and helps out in the classroom occasionally.

This student was so impressed by the lessons of Kindness Week that she came home, wrote some cards to her friends and asked her mother if she could deliver treats to their houses. (courtesy of Laura Stephens)


All these efforts are paying off. One instance of proof is contained in a note from a Jerabek mother:

"Just wanted to give a huge shout out to all those who are helping with #kindnessweek. Today after school, without any prompting whatsoever, my daughter came home, wrote some cards to her friends, and asked if she could deliver treats to their houses. She was kind. She didn't do it for a bracelet, accolades or any recognition ... she just has heard about 'kindness' so much this week she wanted to do something on her own. I'm super grateful for all the effort, planning and organization that has gone into Kindness Week. I'm so glad that we are promoting this in Jerabek culture! This mama could not be more happy to be a part of a school that supports raising kind people!"