The school auditorium is filled to capacity. Kids and teachers alike are clapping and stamping their feet to an infectious hip-hop beat. Onstage, a troupe of attractive young performers are rapping and rhyming, locking and popping, and performing wildly acrobatic dance moves with uncommon grace and precision.
No, it’s not an episode of Glee, but a typical scene at the upbeat It’s Cool 2B Kind events The Be Kind People Project is holding this winter in some of the nation’s most challenged and underprivileged communities.
These events are part of a comprehensive national anti-bullying campaign the nonprofit organization launched in late 2012 to teach kids that “it really is cool to be kind.” Each in-school “assembly” features a high-energy performance by The Be Kind Crew™, a troupe of talented young dancers who deliver the organization’s kindness message using classical technique, urban styles, hip hop rhythms and slam poetry.
On February 26, The Be Kind People Project will hold an It’s Cool 2B Kind assembly at Ensign Intermediate School in Newport Beach. The event will honor Molly McWhertor, the eighth grade student who won grand prize in the organization’s national It’s Cool 2B Creative contest. Molly won a $1,000 grant for her school for her anti-bullying video entitled, “Words Hurt.”
The contest was open to all public, private and home-schooled students across the U.S. Youth were challenged to create a 2 ½-minute video of a song, dance or theatrical performance that illustrates how kindness has impacted their lives in a meaningful way. Students with talents in the visual arts were also invited to participate by submitting electronic scans of their artworks.
Molly’s winning video, entitled “Words Hurt,” spotlights the power of words to hurt or heal. The black-and-white video opens with footage of Molly and her classmates holding cards bearing insults like “stupid,” “fat,” “loser,” “gross,” “ugly,” and “freak.” Then, after each student describes the devastating impact of bullying on others, the phrase “Nothing good comes of being mean. So instead let’s pledge to be…” flashes on the screen and the video segues to footage of the girls holding a new set of cards with words like “encouraging,” “supportive,” “positive,” “helpful,” “honest,” “considerate,” “thankful,” “responsible,” “respectful,” and “a friend.” These are the tenets of the Be Kind Pledge™ which is at the heart of every The Be Kind People Project program.
According to Molly, “I decided to participate in the It’s Cool 2B Creative contest because it’s important to me to help other kids and show them how hurtful words can be. You can’t judge someone based on how they are at school. You have to understand their point of view and where they’re coming from. They may be dealing with very difficult situations in their personal lives. ”
Molly has already noticed a positive impact since her video was shown to the school. “Now, even my friends are being way nicer,” she says. “They understand that bullies hurt everyone, including themselves. Why do it if nothing good comes of it?”
“We played Molly’s video for all of the 1,100 students in our school,” said Kari Rush, Molly’s teacher at Ensign Intermediate School. “We also used it as the centerpiece of a school wide lesson highlighting the power of words to lift us up or tear us down. The staff, teachers and all of the kids loved it. Everybody rallied behind this important message.”
Rush was particularly impressed by Molly’s strong commitment to combating bullying. “Molly was super-motivated by this contest,” Rush said. “She’s determined to make a real difference and I’d say she has succeeded admirably. We’re all very proud of her.”
The It’s Cool 2B Creative Contest was a perfect fit for Ensign Intermediate School, where principal Gloria Duncan conceived and launched a comprehensive “Community of Kindness” program at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. “Our program is only partly about discouraging bullying,” she explains. “In our student handbook, we urge students to ‘Be a SeaBee Buddy, Not a Bully.’ But we’re taking a positive approach, encouraging kids to perform acts of kindness and to focus their attention on helping others. Our Life Skills elective class incorporates many of the key concepts from our kindness program and teaches decision-making skills that kids need to make positive choices in their lives.”
As the grand prize winner, Molly will receive a $1,000 grant from The Be Kind People Project for her school. In addition, every student will receive an array of prizes that includes a Be Kind People Project silicone sports watch, reflecting the organization’s conviction that -- when it comes to educating children -- “Every Minute Counts.” The prizes will be distributed to the principal, teacher and students at a special presentation on February 26.
“Our ultimate goal is to recognize teachers while ensuring that kindness becomes a vital and ongoing part of students’ lives,” said Marcia Meyer, founder of The Be Kind People Project. “The It’s Cool 2B Creative contest provides a unique opportunity for students to use the written word, performance and the visual arts to demonstrate their commitment to kindness and show how they are actively engaged in extending good to others. It also reinforces the important messages that kindness is one of our nation’s core values and that we should acknowledge and reward acts of kindness whenever they occur.”
To see Molly’s “Words Hurt” video and other winning entries, please visit TheBeKindPeopleProject.org.