While most students spent their summer vacations playing videogames or going to theme parks and the beach, sixth grader Sebastian Nativo was at home devising a way to bring more kindness to his school community. When Sebastian originally pitched his idea for the “Kindness Club” to Dr. Deborah Egan, EdD, Principal of St. John the Apostle School in Clark, NJ, he described the benefits as two-fold: “students would do for others while having fun in the process.” Sebastian was confident his Kindness Club would create a “create a ripple effect throughout the school community.”
Since its first meeting in September, the Kindness Club has done just that; its roster is up to 49 students, with a waiting list for new members. The club meets at least once a month under the direction of moderator and 6th grade teacher Mrs. Sharon Osnato, though many individual students have taken the initiative to meet more frequently to further their community service and outreach agenda.
Sebastian collaborated with Mrs. Osnato to plan an entire year’s worth of monthly activities for the club, all of which are tied to this year’s school theme, Choose to Be Kind. In October the students created cards with personal thank you messages to veterans through Operation Gratitude. This month the students will begin stuffing stockings with small toys and other items to be delivered at Christmas to a local children’s hospital. Other planned activities will benefit the homeless, local food pantries and recreation departments.
Sebastian credits his experience with the Be the Change Inc. program as one of the driving forces behind this endeavor. His prior volunteer work with Be the Change has inspired much of what he brings to the Kindness Club. In the face of bullying and other types of negative expression, simple acts of kindness have become a popular focus in schools and communities. In their daily instruction, teachers at St. John make specific reference to virtues like kindness, respect, and honesty, each of which is tied in with the school’s Choose to Be Kind theme. Sebastian’s efforts represent the chain reaction of positivity that can be started when just one person chooses to “pay it forward.”