Patriot High School in Nokesville, Virginia, participated in Random Acts of Kindness Week, Feb. 15-19, sharing kindness with the entire community.
During RAK week students wrote letters of appreciation, baked and delivered cookies, spread messages of positivity, reached out to other schools and donated to local charities.
National Random Acts of Kindness Day falls on Feb. 17 during Valentine’s Week. This year, the RAK committee at Patriot High School decided to extend the holiday’s activities even as people were learning virtually. The committee felt that during COVID and a time of divisiveness, kindness was needed more than ever.
“This is the first time we’ve done something at such a large scale,” said Dr. Michael Bishop, Principal of Patriot High School. "There’s so much negativity of the world, and just a kind word goes a long way.”
Bishop was impressed by how all the various parts came together. He believes the activities had a very positive effect on Patriot students and the larger Patriot-area community.
Thank a Teacher Monday
“I have to say that your "Thank You" filled me with so much joy, and yes, a tear to my eye. I've had a few "Thank You" notes here and there, yet NEVER like this one in my 17 years with PWCS. In these times of Covid-19, YOUR note meant more than you ever can imagine. So "Thank You for making my Day, (Year) all the brighter.”[/pullquote]
On Monday, Patriot students emailed letters of gratitude to elementary, middle or high school educators or coaches who made an impact on their lives.
Teachers English addressed it as a writing assignment.
“Expressing gratitude is an activity that benefits both the sender and the receiver,” said English Department Chair, Bobbi Scott. “I wanted to give students the opportunity and guidance to use positivity to promote well-being in their communities, to let them see for themselves the power of kindness.”
The response students received back was a testimony that a kind word can go a long way.
“Teachers were truly touched to receive letters from their students. I had one parent who participated as well,” said Scott. “She sent several emails to her former teachers and to those who have impacted her children’s lives. She sent me an email with all of the responses she received. It was incredibly touching.”
Teachers were joyful to receive the messages.
“Oh my goodness, you literally made my day! Thank you so much for thinking of me and sending this sweet email. You have no idea how much this means to me!”[/pullquote]
"It was wonderful hearing from you! My times flies….Thank you so much for your kind words! I read your email and promptly got very teary. My hope is to make an impact, but you never really know if you do. Your email touched my heart.”
“I cannot thank you enough for being so supportive, thoughtful, and caring this year! It has been quite a journey, and this email just made my day.”
Chalk Up the Day Tuesday
On Tuesday, Patriot students used colored chalk to write uplifting messages to students and teachers who were attending school in person. They wrote the messages on sidewalks and concrete in front of Patriot neighboring T. Clay Wood Elementary School and other schools in the area.
The messages were motivational, such "you've got this" "you are capable of amazing things.”
Student council members took the lead, organizing with member of Leadership Development class, law club, FBLA, SeaPerch Robotics, Backpack Buddies, National Honor Society, Be Inspired Student Association, Gymnastics team, and UNICEF Club.
Marianne Burns, Social Studies and Leadership teacher at Patriot, said giving back is something the students really missed this year.
“My leadership students who participated really enjoyed the opportunity to make a positive impact on our community,” she said. “It’s one of the things they miss most from more 'normal' school years.”
Smiles for Miles Wednesday
On Wednesday, the Patriot community delivered student-made “Smile for Miles” cookies to teachers and staff at schools Patriot High School feeder schools.
“Dr. Bishop and I knew we wanted to spread happiness and positivity with our neighboring schools, and the idea of bringing treats came up,” said Assistant Principal David Van Gelder.
“From there, we reached out to our culinary teacher, Emily Stevenson, and she helped make it happen.”
Stevenson had been teaching her Culinary 2 students in school since December. She often has culinary students cook for the community, so this was something she was excited to make happen.
“Always, but most especially in these times, the most important thing to do is to go outside of yourself and think of others,” said Stevenson. “We immediately jumped at the chance to help bring some smiles to some very deserving staff and faculty at these schools.”
Stevenson took some “guided inspiration,” from cookies of her childhood in Western Pennsylvania, “that always made, and continue to make me smile.”
It became a great lesson for those CTE in dessert decoration. “My students looked at examples, experimented with icings to get proper color, fluidity, and drying capability, and then went for it,” said Stevenson. “The result was nothing short of magic.”
On Wednesday, Van Gelding delivered the Smile for Miles cookies to teachers at Bristow Run, Cedar Point, Glenkirk, Piney Branch, T. Clay Wood and Victory elementary schools, plus Gainesville Marsteller middle schools. He brought along coffee and donuts for front office staff and administration. One of Ms. Stevenson’s students brought cookies to the Kelly Leadership Center for the PWCS School Board.
People were excited to be recognized.
“The response from everyone involved has been fantastic,” said Van Gelding. “School staff around the county has been working hard all year to adapt and make things happen. It was nice to take a moment to spread some happiness with everyone involved!
“David VanGelder is our wonderful administrator who orchestrated all the inception and delivery of our items,” said Stevenson. “He was the driving force to make things happen.”
Culinary students enjoyed the project and the outreach.
"It made me feel so happy and good. I was glad to be able to help out in the community and give back to the teachers that have worked so hard during this difficult time,” said Culinary Chief Information Officer, Zachary Salter. “I think it was very important to do this to show that good things are still happening even in a hard time with lots of negativity and hardships."
On Thursday Patriot Key Club students painted and hid rocks with uplifting messages of being kind and staying positive.
Students left these rocks throughout the community at schools, parks and neighborhoods in order to spread joy.
It was not only a Patriot activity. Students at various elementary schools engaged in the same activity on Random Acts of Kindness Day.
Now, one could be walking down the street and find a positive message. Organizer Kelly Beauchamp-Payne, a Patriot Health and P.E. teacher and girls soccer coach thought it was a great success.
"I think any time you could say something kind to a stranger that it is a success. If any rocks that were found lifted someone's spirit that makes me feel good. I do think it was a success," said Beauchamp-Payne.
Friday Donation Day
Patriot teacher Sharon Shipman And students from the National Honor Society and Key Club reached out virtually to all of Patriot High School to make a donation for RAK Week.
The result was over 800 items they were able to donate to the Prince William County Animal Shelter, Wolf Trap Animal Rescue and the Haymarket Food Pantry.
Cy Hwang an officer in the National Honor Society delivered the items to the Haymarket Food Pantry and Shipman will bringing the items to the Animal Shelter/Rescue on Saturday morning. The folks at the Haymarket Food Pantry were very grateful for the donation, said Shipman.
Something I really enjoyed about participating in Random Acts of Kindness this week was being able to brighten up someone’s day whether I knew they were having a rough week or not,” said student Amanda Morales. “Being kind to someone doesn’t only brighten up their day but it also motivates others to treat each other with kindness which is what we need during these hard times. "
The Haymarket Food Pantry was very grateful for the donation Shipman said.
This week Patriot students returned to school with the hope of keeping the spirits up and dedication to continue doing the kinds of things that make Patriot a special place.
*The Thursday Rocks section of the article has been updated.
Video produced by Prince William County Schools Office of Communications and Community Relations.