In less than a school year, students in the Milford School District have logged more than one million acts of kindness through the Students for a Million Acts of Kindness campaign.
Students for a Million Acts of Kindness started with a simple challenge: If the students reached their goal, Wellness Center counselor Su Chafin promised she would shave her head.
And that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday.
Her curly, highlighted locks fell to the ground, and what started as an effort among four high school students in October ended as a school-wide campaign that increased the recognition of daily acts of kindness. Three other teachers also had their heads shaved, and others volunteered to become human sundaes, ride mini bicycles and participate in a pie-eating contest to celebrate the students’ achievements.
From first graders to seniors, the entire Milford School District was on board with S.M.A.K. a few months after the campaign started in late October. They held doors, picked up books, wrote notes to teachers, paid compliments, and Chafin said it wasn’t that the students started doing these things after S.M.A.K. started, but that they were more aware of what they were doing and how it affected the school climate.
“My awareness has grown, too,” Chafin said. “We feel a difference. The staff feels a difference. It’s not perfection, but we weren’t going for that.”
Chafin added that, as a mental health specialist, she believes the campaign has improved the general mental health of the school, including a reduction in depression and anxiety among the high school students seen at the Wellness Center.
Chelsea Fitzgerald, a senior who was one of the four original S.M.A.K. ambassadors said during Tuesday’s assembly that she knew the sentiment would spread, but never thought it would get so big.
“I am so ecstatic about the whole thing. I teared up when I found out we hit a million,” she said. “It is contagious. It makes kids motivated and that’s what we wanted.”
Cami Morgan, a foreign language teacher at the high school who has helped lead the S.M.A.K. campaign started by the students, said the district has worked hard and loved hard to reach their goal.
“It’s been good for the kids to get positive attention and for the community to hear positive things about the high school and it’s spread through the district,” Morgan said. “It’s been good for Milford.”
The success of S.M.A.K. has been celebrated throughout the week, with an assembly at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School that gave students a chance to throw pies in teachers’ faces, a large assembly at the high school on Tuesday with multiple teachers getting their heads shaved followed by an overnight excursion on the roof Lulu M. Ross Elementary School on Thursday night.
With about 4,200 students in the Milford School District, Chafin said she’s not shocked that a million acts were documented in less than one school year.
“They’re all leaders, just in different ways,” she said. “I see the tally more than anyone and I can’t count how many times I’ve cried because I’ve been so touched and moved. …These kids are bothered by inequality, not getting along, and they want to do something about it. We need to listen to them. Genius occurs at any age.”