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Los Banos school helps prevent bullying with challenge, raises money for charity.

Charleston Elementary School students (from left to right) Emmi Luna, Aaliyah Mitchell, Kanin Welch, Ava Felix, Jaelle Cortez wear kindness shirts.
Charleston Elementary School students (from left to right) Emmi Luna, Aaliyah Mitchell, Kanin Welch, Ava Felix, Jaelle Cortez wear kindness shirts.

The students at Charleston Elementary in Los Banos more than met the kindness challenge.

The student government worked with the sixth-grade teachers to coordinate the school’s participation in the Great Kindness Challenge, which was held Jan. 27-Jan. 31. The school also worked with Pennies for Patients to raise $4,009.58 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

More than 24,000 schools participated in the Great Kindness Challenge in 2018. The goal of the challenge is to help create a culture of kindness and to help prevent bullying.

“We don’t have a lot of bullying, not to say that it doesn’t happen,” said Charleston principal Lou Ruiz. “Something like this does help, especially when we are pushing to be kind. The Kindness Challenge gives them something to reflect on, it’s a reminder to be kind.”

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Charleston Elementary students Maximus Medeiros (left) and Tripp Kim wear kindness shirts. Photo By Taylor Roelofs/Charleston Elementary

Each student was given a Great Kindness Challenge checklist, which gave examples of acts of kindness kids could do. The acts of kindness included things like help a young student, give your friend a high five, help someone up when they fall down, pick up 10 pieces of trash on campus and compliment five people.

According to Ruiz, each morning students shared their acts of kindness they did with their classmates. For each act of kindness, they were given a strip of paper, which was used to make a classroom chain of kindness.

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Students at Charleston Elementary kick off the Great Kindness Challenge, which is a program that has a goal to create a culture of kindness and prevent bullying. Photo By Michele Trent/Charleston Elementary

According to teachers and students, the challenge had a positive effect on campus.

“The kids kept saying they felt kids weren’t just being kind when teachers were around,” said sixth-grade teacher Leila Gurgen. “They said it felt different. New kids on campus had told me they felt left out some times. One of the challenges was to make new friends. The new kids did say they felt more included.”

Ruiz said he saw kids picking up trash around campus, others were helping wipe down tables after lunch and other students volunteered to help teachers in classrooms.

The school also created a “Great Wall of Kindness,” which hung in the main hallway by the main office. On a piece of butcher paper, teachers, students and staff wrote positive statements or quotes that they liked about kindness or love.

Staff also wore kindness t-shirts on Wednesdays. Students and staff still wear kindness shirts on Wednesdays.

“The Kindness Challenge makes them think outside of themselves,” Gurgen said. “I’m a big proponent of what Gandhi says, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’”

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Charleston Elementary School students (from left to right) Malia Fuentes, Madalyn Silva, Mikayla Luna ear kindness shirts. Photo By Taylor Roelofs/Charleston Elementary

During the kindness kickoff assembly, there were also representatives from the Pennies for Patients to discuss their program.

Each student was given a small box to college change in along with information about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Each classroom was given an empty five-gallon water bottle to collect coins. It became a school-wide contest with the two classes that collected the most money earning a pizza party.

Students had a month to raise money. With just 380 students at the school they raised over $4,000.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Ruiz said. “We opened it up to all our kids: Kindergarten through sixth grade. We didn’t know how much money we would collect. We put an empty five-gallon water jug in each classroom. I offered to buy a pizza party for the two classes that collected the most money. The kids just got into it.”

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