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Milford Beacon
  • Spreading SMAK throughout the state

  • Students for a Million Acts of Kindness began at Milford Senior High School in the fall, after Wellness Center Counselor Su Chafin promised to shave her head if the kids could actually meet their goal. Chafin, teachers and the student ambassadors have said they are blown away that they are nearly half way there, even though there are only four months of school left.
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  • Students for a Million Acts of Kindness began at Milford Senior High School in the fall, after Wellness Center Counselor Su Chafin promised to shave her head if the kids could actually meet their goal. Chafin, teachers and the student ambassadors have said they are blown away that they are nearly half way there, even though there are only four months of school left.
    But what has really surprised the high school participants is that after the rest of the schools in the district jumped on board, the initiative is now spreading throughout the state and even pouring over to New Jersey and Pennsylvania schools as the SMAK campaign prepares for next week’s National Random Acts of Kindness Week.
    SMAK ambassador Hannah Knechel, a senior, said she’s been surprised by how quickly the initiative has spread.
    “It’s crazy,” she said. “It started as a small idea and now it has moved to other states. Everybody seems more willing to do something nice because they’re being rewarded for it.”
    While Chafin and school counselors said it’s difficult to truly measure the impact the initiative has had on school climate, Chafin said SMAK’s Twitter account has been recognized by Michele Borba, author and “Today Show” contributor, who tweeted that the initiative is supporting research based on the positive influence of kindness in school settings.
    SMAK ambassador Chaz Schmitt, who didn’t expect to participate in a kindness program as he entered high school, said he has seen the difference that acts of kindness can make on students.
    “It seems like a happier environment than what it was,” the Milford freshman said. “Everybody seems joyous and trying harder to be nice to other people.”
    To date, the district has logged 430,933 acts of kindness, Chafin said on Wednesday.
    In addition to the Milford School District, 30 schools throughout Delaware, from Georgetown Elementary School to Brandywine High School, will participate in a “You Matter” day next week, embracing the message of the SMAK initiative to spread kindness in even the smallest ways. Out-of-state schools, including Friends Central School in Windwood, Pa. and several elementary schools in Woolwich, N.J., have also jumped on board. Students will make banners, recognize other local organizations like police and fire departments, and make an extra effort to reach as many people as possible with kind messages and actions.
    SMAK was really born and bred from the high school students, but at the elementary school level, students need a little more guidance, explained Lulu M. Ross Elementary School Counselor Jay Lingo.
    Lingo said a monthly drawing of student tally forms helps keep the kids motivated to be kind, with a bag of Hersey kisses as the prize.
    Page 2 of 2 - But it’s really just encouraging acts that the students are used to performing, simple things like helping someone pick up their books after they dropped them, or holding open a door, that make the difference. Lingo said it’s about helping the students recognize their own kindness, and that of others, that helps supplement life lessons in elementary school curriculum, including lessons on respect, manners and passing it on.
    “It’s making students more aware of what they can do to go above and beyond to make somebody feel good,” Lingo said. “This isn’t a one-time lesson, this is an overall change in the culture to be more positive and thoughtful of others.”

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