An excessively shy little girl at Our Lady of Hope spent the last school year “Making herself as invisible as possible,” says her 7th grade teacher, Dena Campbell. She wouldn’t make eye contact. She wouldn’t talk to other students. At lunch she stayed in the classroom by herself. That same little girl is now planning her Quinceañera with new friends. Kindness made the difference. Kindness encouraged a timid young girl to lift her gaze.
Though everyone in her class recognized her shyness, after a few weeks of the school’s Kindness Campaign, one young boy—instead of discounting her—said, “We don’t know what she’s going through.” Empathy changed him from looking the other way to looking with more sympathy at his classmate.
The school’s campaign was designed around a curriculum based on the book and movie, Wonder. Originally planned for religion-studies students, the school ultimately decided to share the learnings school-wide, encouraging everyone to take a deeper look at what it means to be kind, to live with more understanding for each other’s situation.
Every morning, principal Mary Delac, led the entire school in a morning prayer, choosing a different emotion or life-challenge to reflect upon—feeling unloved, being incarcerated, having drug addiction problems. The students then shared a moment of silence as they thought about situations others (perhaps themselves) were living through. “I realized that life is bigger than me,” one boy shared with his teacher.
It was a good lesson for grade school students to learn. It’s a good lesson for all of us to learn from them.
Several months ago four seventh graders at Our Lady of Hope used gun control as the focus of a joint art project. From that one project, these students organized a rally and on April 20th, 58 students “walked out” of school to stand up for their values. When asked why, one student simply said, “Guns just aren’t right.”
How did they feel during their protest? “Really good,” said one. And after? Everyone joined in singing the Prayer of Saint Francis. It was a meaningful day for the students who conceived of and led the rally, one that was encouraged and supported by the school’s administration and teachers.
The day began with a middle school assembly to talk about the walk out. (Students who chose not to participate were supported with as much encouragement and understanding as the protesters.) After the assembly the kids walked a few blocks to McDonalds, where they stood on the corner of 43rd Street and Rainbow Boulevard, chanting and waving posters. The chant—Don’t Build a Wall, Change the Gun Law—were the student’s own words. 46 posters—also student-conceived and designed—were made and waved. A McDonald’s customer bought all participating kids a soft drink.
When asked about the experience, the students shared their excitement when cars honked and held thumbs-up in support. They also talked about other onlookers who were angry and felt the need to shout diminishing epitaphs and brandish negative gestures. What did they do then, they were asked. “We got louder”, they responded proudly.
During the assembly earlier in the day, the students were wisely coached to not engage with negativity. In fact, this lesson alone could have been the focus of the march itself. Because, they shared, how we respond to what happens to us reflects what we value and are willing to stand for. These students value peace. They stood up and walked out to proclaim the value of peace in their classrooms, and the world.
Before heading back to school for another assembly—which provided a safe space for the kids to discuss and process the day with teachers—they all joined in a moment of silence.
Why April 20th? It was the 19th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, resulting in 15 deaths. Since then guns have continued to cut young lives short. From Sandy Hook Elementary to Virginia Tech to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (and sadly, others), gun violence against young lives continues. This past month, 58 youngsters in a Kansas City Missouri Catholic school decided to say the shootings need to stop. So they made a plan. “We all did,” said one young man. Moreover, they all followed through.
"The scholarship from Bright Futures helped ease the financial pressure of sending my son to private school and allowed me to place all my focus on becoming the best parent I can be. Thank you for your financial support, which is very much appreciated. I will work hard to make sure that you feel that you have made a wise decision in selecting my son as one of your Scholarship recipients. Again, thank you for your generosity." — Antoney Perez
Juan Marron and Mateo De La Torre have no question about why they love Our Lady of Hope and the Catholic education it provides them. “Being here makes me a better person,” says Juan. “And I’m more comfortable being around people I know,” Mateo adds. “There’s no drama, no bullying. We have fun in school without worrying.”
For a pair of 8th grade boys preparing to graduate in the next couple of months, their comments are wise beyond their years. Their words are also deeply satisfying. Thanks to Bright Futures Fund, both students are well on their way to significant future endeavors that will be grounded in daily prayer and faith. Mateo is pretty sure he wants to be a coach. Juan hasn’t yet committed. He’s still considering his options.
They feel safe at Our Lady of Hope. Both boys agree that’s partially because their teachers keep an eye on them. “They make sure we’re doing the right thing,” both confirm. Asked if they’ll miss their teachers they nod their heads. “We will,” both agree. And they’ll miss their friends. “We’re a family here,” the boys say, knowing families are hard to replace.
Thanks to Bright Futures Fund, both students are well on their way to significant future endeavors that will be grounded in daily prayer and faith.