Winkler Middle tackles Great Kindness Challenge
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

Winkler Middle tackles Great Kindness Challenge

    Kayla Leftwich, front, and Madison Barnhardt make thank-you cards for the PTSO in Kathryn Gaither’s eighth-grade class at Harold E. Winkler Middle School as students throughout the school participated in the Great Kindness Challenge.
    School nurse Lynne Georgevich brought the Great Kindness Challenge to Harold E. Winkler Middle School in Concord.
    Students in Kathryn Gaither’s eighth-grade class at Harold E. Winkler Middle School made these thank-you cards, among others, for members of the school’s PTSO as part of the Great Kindness Challenge.
    School nurse Lynne Georgevich shows some of the approximately 300 thank-you cards that students at Harold E. Winkler Middle School made, as part of the Great Kindness Challenge, for members of the military who are serving overseas.
    Thirteen-year-old Gianni Samuel holds up the paw print she received for making a thank-you card for the PTSO in Kathryn Gaither’s eighth-grade class as part of the Great Kindness Challenge at Winkler Middle School. Students with paw prints were entered in a drawing for daily prizes and then a weekly big prize at the end of the project.

When Lynne Georgevich, the school nurse at Harold E. Winkler Middle School, saw an email about The Great Kindness Challenge, she knew she wanted to bring it to her school.

As part of the project, students devote one school week to performing as many acts of kindness as possible.

The project began in 2011 with three California schools. This year, more than 800 schools nationwide participated.

With a list of 50 suggested acts of kindness, the project challenges each student to do 25 to 50 kind acts during the week.

Among the suggestions: Shaking a classmate’s hand; paying a peer a compliment; picking up trash others have left behind; helping a teacher; and creating thank-you cards for soldiers serving abroad or staff at the school.

Georgevich presented the idea to the principal, Mary Beth Roth, in early January. The two then hurried to organize the project before it was scheduled to take place – in the last week in January.

On Feb. 4, students in Kathryn Gaither’s eighth-grade class were making thank-you cards for the members of the school’s parent teacher student organization.

“I think the students do a lot of these acts of kindness without us noticing,” Gaither said. “It is nice that we are recognizing these acts, and the students are picking up on it and will probably do more acts in the future.”

As 13-year-old Dawson Williams worked on a card, he said, “I helped my friend Joel take a bag to PE, and then let him borrow a pair of my clean shorts for gym when he realized he had forgot(ten) his.”

Two desks over, 14-year-old Mya Sellers said, “I have been giving compliments to the other students. I think this really encourages the students to be nicer to each other and to help the teachers.”

Madison Barnhardt, 14, shared her acts of kindness, too. “My friend dropped her lunch, and I helped her pick it up. She just kept thanking me, and it meant a lot to know I helped someone out. Her appreciation helped me feel good, too,” she said.

As acknowledgment of these acts, each Winkler Wolves student received a piece of colored construction paper that was shaped like a wolf’s paw print. Georgevich called them “Paws for Kindness.”

The paw prints were collected for a raffle each day, which then awarded gift certificates from the Gem Theatre, CiCi’s Pizza, PDQ, Chick-fil-A and Sweet Frog to 10 to 15 students.

After the daily raffle was finished, the Paw Prints were taped together and hung from the railings of the school’s atrium. At the end of the week they were collected, and a final raffle was held for the grand prizes: Two $25 gift certificates for the Academy Sports in Concord and two family packages to Great Wolf Lodge.

The 926 students performed 6,735 acts of kindness during the week and made about 300 thank-you cards for U.S. troops abroad. Georgevich pointed out that they averaged 1,347 acts of kindness per day, which equaled more than one act per student each day.

Georgevich said she was happy with the results, considering it was the school’s first year participating and that snow divided the effort by forcing school cancellations in the middle of the previous week.

“This is a grass-roots program, which is a positive, proactive effort to combat bullying. We believe that this will minimize bullying by establishing good habits,” she said. “If you practice doing kind acts, you will continue to do these acts. … I want this to last forever, not just this week.”

Marty Price is a freelance photographer and writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at

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