Social Eyes by Faye Reeder

This city’s #ChooseKind Initiative: an idea that is catching on

Arlington Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos, left, and board member Aaron Reich.
Arlington Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos, left, and board member Aaron Reich. Handout

The kindness initiative launched by Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams early this year is off to a great start. Hardly a day passes without news about residents showing unusual kindness to one another.

One outstanding example is what’s going on with students at Pearcy Elementary School. Principal Codi Van Duzee challenged faculty and staff to add something to the academic commitments they have for students. She wanted her school to also work on building up the character of each student as part of the initiative.

A linchpin of the Pearcy initiative was to have the whole school participate in a study of the book “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. The bestselling book is about a fifth-grade boy with facial deformities and how he interacts with other kids at school — it’s about choosing kindness and showing respect at every opportunity. All faculty and staff received books, and reading teachers were provided class sets for their students.

“Additionally, we began to focus on one character trait per six weeks schoolwide, and celebrate students, teachers, and staff members each week who demonstrate those traits,” Van Duzee said.

“Our book study caught the attention of the city of Arlington as well as General Mills and Cheerios, and through that connection, we were given the opportunity to host a breakfast sponsored by Cheerios to further our kindness initiative,” explained Van Duzee. They decided the breakfast would kick off what they called Pearcy’s Day of Kindness on Dec. 8.

“Cheerios donated over 100 full-sized boxes of cereal and Choose Kind shirts, along with $150, to help us put the breakfast together, and Crest donated 8,352 boxes of toothpaste that was split between our school, Arlington Life Shelter and Mission Arlington.”

“We made the connection between toothpaste and kindness because words are like toothpaste — easy to push out, but nearly impossible to put back — so choose kind words,” Van Duzee explained.

Around 100 guests attended the breakfast, including the mayor and Arlington ISD Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos and members of the school board. Representatives from the Arlington police and fire departments, Arlington Life Shelter, Arlington Animal Shelter, Mission Arlington, Promise Hope Church and the Arlington Community Relations Committee were other special guests.

Breakfast guests saw a video presentation about the impact of the book on the school and how Pearcy students have demonstrated kindness. After the breakfast, younger students were given Wonder buttons and posters and third- through sixth-grade students received the book along with buttons. Donations from the Children’s Craniofacial Organization in Dallas, Adrienne Waintraub from Penguin Random House and a Donor’s Choose project funded the gifts.

In her remarks to the audience at the breakfast Van Duzee said: “One of the things I value most about our school is our unwavering commitment to building up the whole child. We want our students to leave us not only with exceptional academic skills, but with the kinds of character traits and social skills that are required for success in all their future endeavors.”

Last month, the city decided to participate in the #ChooseKind initiative along with people in cities across the country leading up to World Kindness Day on November 13.

To shine a light on the good deeds people are doing, the city’s Community Relations Commission has asked anyone in the community to report random acts of kindness through the city’s free mobile app, Ask Arlington. The app can be downloaded from the App Store for free, and users can simply tap the “Submit a Request” button to report an act of kindness. Even photos and videos can be included in reporting the acts of kindness.

“The kindness initiative will give lifelong residents and those new to the city, as well as those just visiting, a great opportunity to participate in a meaningful and unique sameness: working together to give and receive kindness,” said Devan Allen, chairman of the Community Relations Commission, in an interview with city officials. The mayor is challenging residents to report 400,000 acts of kindness over the next year.

“I’ve always known that the people of Arlington are among the kindest in this country, so deciding to step up as a #ChooseKind city made sense. We have been thrilled to see so many schools, businesses and community groups decide to participate this month by holding their own #ChooseKind events. What’s more exciting is to see residents of all ages find the smallest ways to lead kinder lives every day and make Arlington an even better place to live, learn, work and play,” Mayor Williams said in a recent interview on the city’s cable channel.

Social media posts that use #ChooseKind and @CityofArlington tag will enable anyone interested in the kindness initiative to see the latest activity. Check out visit .cityofkindness.org/choosekind for additional details.

Do you have a news tip for Eyes on Arlington? If so, send it to freeder@star-telegram.com. Keep up with even more community news by “Liking” our page on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SocialEyes.ST. Twitter: @FayeReeder

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