Students from Florence Mattison Elementary loaded up on their school bus Wednesday and traveled across Conway to spread joy as part of this week’s Kindness Challenge.
Principal Gary Logan started the program at Woodrow Cummins Elementary as assistant principal years ago and after finding out Florence Mattison hadn’t done it in a while, decided it was time to pick it back up.
The one-week national campaign, created by non-profit organization Kids for Peace, serves to create a culture of kindness on school campuses across the nation.
Logan told the Log Cabin Democrat he was originally challenged to get involved at Woodrow by another school and after reading into it, thought it was a good way to approach the issue of bullying.
He said after moving to Florence Mattison, he presented the ideas to the teachers, who jumped on board and worked through ideas of how they could go into the community and do something kind.
That’s when they settled on sharing sweet treats from Julie’s Sweet Shoppe in Conway with community helpers.
The group made it to College Square Retirement Community and Salem Place Nursing-Rehab Center on Wednesday. On Thursday, they planned to visit with police and fire departments, two quick trips a day.
Logan said everyday one kid per class is selected to join the group and go on the trip.
“Just send me a kind kid,” he said he told teachers. “Someone who is nice to their peers. They’re excited.”
Logan told the LCD that they tried to think of different helpers across Conway who are often overlooked.
“Taking care of our elderly is something we don’t always think about,” he said. “It can be a hard job, so we thought it would be really nice and spread kindness.”
While the residents don’t often get to leave the center, Logan said this was the group's way to bring that kindness to them.
The students were led through the hallways by activity director Bonnie Malone. Winding from one to the next, the group was able to say good morning to many, passing out high-five after high-five along the way.
“[The residents] were smiling,” Logan said. “I felt like it made a big impact.”
He said he had to hand it to the many administrators at the school who helped put the idea together.
“The teachers have been challenged to talk to them about what we’re doing and why we’re going to these places,” Logan said. “I think it was really cool for [the students] to see.”
He said it’s important for Florence Mattison to instill that kindness characteristic in their students.
“We’re all about the whole child,” he said. “[We] want to teach you the [A, B, C’s], 1 + 1, we want to teach you all of that but we [also] want to teach you how to be a good citizen, we want to teach them to be a good person.”
Logan said he’s a firm believer in character education and teaching students how to be good people and positive members of society.
“I believe that’s what this week has done for us,” he said.
District communication specialist Heather Kendrick was also able to come out and witness the event.
“I think it was really fun,” she said. “Obviously, the character education, we do that in all of our schools and it is very important for them … we want them to learn to read and write, the basics, but we do care about the kind of person they become. That’s part of our core values, so I love that this kindness field trip takes it beyond the building.”
Business office assistant Brooke Ferris helped connect the school to the Salem Place where she works.
Not only was her daughter able to also attend the kindness day on Wednesday, but it was also Ferris’s birthday, so the group chose to sing happy birthday to the mom.
She said in regards to the residents, they love getting to see children come in.
“That puts the biggest smile on their faces,” Ferris said. “We always enjoy when people bring their kids in from different schools. That’s really their favorite is to see the kids.”
Malone said the male resident that was shaking hands with the students was also a retired teacher from the district.
“He was super excited, so he was waiting in the hall for the kids to come through so he could high-five them,” she said. “They were also just super, super excited to see them.”
Malone said she doesn’t do what she does for recognition and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.