“Kindness is a word or gesture that intentionally extends good to others.” –The Be Kind People Project definition of “kindness.”
One day, when my now-second grader was in kindergarten, she brought home a bookmark that outlined the “Be Kind Pledge.”
“What’s this, babe?” I asked. “OH! These really cool people came to my school. They danced a lot and they talked to us about being kind. It was fun!”
That’s how I first learned about the Be Kind People Project, and since it’s a part of our school’s social-emotional curriculum and it’s now a part of our everyday lives. We use its language to communicate about kindness, guide friendship troubles, operate family chores and other “have tos,” and keep a reminder about the tenet of the month on our family white board calendar.
So… what is this Be Kind People Project?
Simply put, it’s kindness education delivered to schools and families. More broadly, it’s social and emotional education that connects with students at their core. It’s an engaging and fun way to take kindness seriously and make it part of the fabric of a school community.
The face of the Be Kind People Project is its nearly 50 dancers/banner carriers – the “Be Kind Crew.” A group of high energy, urban-style dancers and major kindness motivators, the crew produces amazing kindness-themed assemblies at schools all across Arizona (and, sometimes, across the country) teaching it’s cool to be kind and connecting kids to the Be Kind Pledge by movement and FUN. With names like “Sunny,” “Snak Pak,” “Curlz,” “Calypso,” and “Akellz,” the crew is a diverse and passionate bunch of young adults whose mission is to make America’s schools a kinder place to learn and grow.
Starting with kindergartners, the Crew’s message never tells kids what not to do – they show kids what to do – how to integrate kindness into their lives. Anthony “Akellz” Kelly, National Manager of Creative Content and Be Kind Crew Experiences, notes that students remember how they feel during an assembly or during an interaction with the crew, not just what they learned. Connecting the feeling and the lesson creates real, meaningful, and lasting change.
As Bo Whittenton, the Chief Kindness Officer and Chief Services & Programs Officer explains, the program is not meant to be “one and done.” The program is meant to become part of the life of a school and its students and families through ongoing interaction with the Crew at assemblies and classroom resources and training.
This curriculum is actually shifting school culture
In reviewing survey results taken after in-school Be Kind assemblies, the team found a 92% improvement in the culture of the schools as reported by students and teachers. In other words, it works. Like, really well. Team members have reported engaging with students who, usually unbeknownst to them, have been really struggling socially or emotionally in school but end up making a positive change following their Be Kind encounter.
Since its inception in 2011, the Be Kind People Project has expanded their programming to include fitness and wellness, family and after school resources. Coming soon is a program for special needs students. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the Be Kind People Project impacted almost 400,000 students and they’re not slowing down. During the pandemic, they’ve pivoted to deliver virtual programming to keep the kindness rolling.
So how can you, an East Valley parent, get involved?
- Donate: The Be Kind People Project is a 501(c)(3) corporation and all donations are tax deductible. There is even an opportunity to offset your state tax burden by donating.
- Volunteer: Either by participating directly in a volunteer opportunity or connecting the Crew to your family’s school or local event (for example, the Crew recently entertained families waiting in line at a COVID vaccine site), you are advancing the cause of kindness in your community!
- Make a Commitment to be Kind: Sign the pledge and commit to intentionally extending good to others.
- Pay it Forward: Use the Crew’s kindness cards to amplify the message of kindness in your everyday acts. Do you sometimes pay for the car behind you in the drive through line? Hand one of the Crew’s cards to the cashier to give to the recipient of your kindness so they know you’ve been inspired by the Be Kind People Project. Do you or your kiddos have a friend who needs a smile? One of these cards is a great and easy way to show you care.
- Follow Along: The Be Kind People Project has a Facebook page, an Instagram page, a YouTube page and a new TikTok with free content to connect with kids.
- Take the Curriculum Home: Besides the school assembly program, the Project also has a family impact program that anyone can use.
I’m sure we all talk to our kids about kindness. We all want to live in a community that cares for one another. The Be Kind People Project is taking that desire, that feeling, that drive, and putting boots on the ground and making it happen every day.
In February, my daughter jumped into the car from pickup line with an especially huge smile on her face. She hadn’t scored the highest on her math test. She hadn’t run the fastest in PE. She hadn’t even gotten a sucker from the “clean desk fairy.”
“MOM! I got the ‘Considerate’ award!!!” At her “Good News” virtual assembly, she received a certificate from her teacher saying she had best exemplified “Be Considerate,” a tenet of the Be Kind Pledge, that month in class.
I don’t think I could have been any prouder.