Kindness is a superpower at Upper St. Clair

Upper St Clair Twp School District  |  Posted on

Upper St. Clair High School’s superheroes shared lessons about kindness throughout the district’s elementary schools.

Kindness was overflowing in Upper St. Clair as the high school celebrated Kindness Week October 16-20, 2023. In addition to promoting kindness among their peers, a team of “super” high school students shared their message with the district’s youngest students.

Upper St. Clair’s Kindness Week is part of the #bethekindkid Kindness in Action Campaign, in partnership with Remake Learning, as well as the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program.

The effort was led by members of USCHS Student Council and the school’s No Place for Hate committee. Student leaders included seniors Ava Casciato, Kate Falce, Joe Donnelly and Luke McDonough; juniors Ryan Larocco, Ben Seewald, Carly Shontz, Emma Toosi and Jack Yurcich; sophomores Bella Donnelly, Gianna D’Orazio, Braidyn Recker, Lily Simons and Gigi Spina; and freshmen Caty Howard, Coco Jones, Trevor McClintock – Comeaux and Rachel Scharrer.

“We hope our efforts to promote kindness will actually reach every high school student,” Carly said. “Kindness is so important in treating others with respect and creating a good environment for us to learn and socialize in.”

Jack believes that kindness helps reduce stress, makes people smile and improves anyone’s day.

“It is important to promote kindness at the high school because some people have bad days and really don’t want to be at school that day,” he said. “But kindness helps them feel better, even if it is only one smile.”

Events and themed-days were planned throughout the weeklong event. Student leaders created several videos and celebrated kindness on Student Council’s Instagram account. High school students were encouraged to complete several activities on the Kindness Checklist, including:

  • Write a thank you note to a secretary, aide, custodian or nutrition center work.
  • Pick up trash in the cafeteria or cafe321 during lunch.
  • Smile at someone you don’t know.
  • Compliment your Block 3 or Block 5 teacher.
  • Take a Be Kind photo and direct message the Student Council Instagram account.
  • Let someone in front of you in the lunch line.
  • Say thank you to a school police officer.
  • Wear a cardigan on Wednesday.
  • Write a poem for the school nurse.

The student leadership team hopes that their classmates had a better day because of their efforts to promote kindness.

“Even if it is just one person, it is worth it because that one person having a better day could lead to so many more positive actions in the future,” Ryan said. “While not everyone will be kind all the time, hopefully these efforts can be the beginnings of a kinder Upper St. Clair High School.”

Dr. Dan Beck, assistant principal, and Mrs. Brooke Tarcson, head of student activities, served as advisers.

“It was awesome to partner with students as we reflected on the impact of kindness in our lives, and all we needed to do was provide them with the opportunity,” Dr. Beck said. “Students were truly empowered to discover innovative ways to spread kindness in our community, and it was a blast to watch how it all played out.”

The student leadership group has committed significant resources to promoting kindness within and beyond the high school.

“The folks from Remake Learning reminded us about a quote that Mister Rogers said…that one of the toughest assignments we’ll ever be given is to ‘make goodness attractive.’ Being in alignment with the pillars of No Place For Hate, the #bethekindkid Kindness in Action Campaign highlighted that goodness is part of the fabric of our high school culture,” Dr. Beck said.

With that sentiment in mind, Upper St. Clair High School extended its kindness initiative to the district’s three elementary schools – Baker, Eisenhower and Streams. Complete with superhero masks and capes, the high school students presented lessons on kindness to students in grades K-2.

The high school superheroes each shared their kindness superpower, which included saying hello to someone new, giving a high five, making their bed, saying please and thank you, holding the door for others and playing with younger siblings. They read the book Kindness is my Superpower, shared a short video about kindness and completed an activity together. Kindergarten students colored their very own kindness superhero masks, and first and second graders wrote thank you notes to someone special.

“Elementary school kids are at the ages where they are very impressionable when it comes to older kids making an effort to come and talk to them,” Ava said. “It’s important for us to then use that to our advantage by emphasizing kindness, showing how to spread it, and inspiring the kids to continue to be kind with our fun and creative activities!”

The elementary students responded enthusiastically, showing a genuine eagerness to participate and share their ideas of kindness. Dr. Lindsay Klousnitzer, Streams Elementary principal, described the response from her elementary students as “heartwarming.”

“Kindness is an invaluable lesson for high school students to share. Many of the adults, including myself, had tears of joy watching the students interact,” Dr. Klousnitzer said. “This exchange not only illustrated the high school students’ success in delivering the lesson but also demonstrated how young minds can be inspired to make a difference by spreading kindness throughout their school and community.”

While the lessons were designed to teach the elementary students about kindness, many of the high school students feel they gained just as much from the experience.

“As high school students and young adults, I think it can be difficult to enjoy moments in the present,” Ryan said. “Too often, we are looking at our future or worrying about our past. The little kids reintroduced the simplicity and pure joy of life to me. Mrs. Kopeko, a kindergarten teacher at Streams, was telling us that she hopes that what she teaches in kindergarten sticks with her students and they can keep the joy as they grow older. I am so glad I was able to feel that joy and carry that with me for as long as I can.”

The morning after conducting kindness lessons at Baker Elementary, a teacher had already received a message from a parent whose son is taking great pride in doing kind deeds around the house.

“My second graders enjoyed the story, had fun with the card activity and most of all they loved connecting with the high school students,” Kara Manion, second grade teacher, said. “We always talk about kindness and supporting people in my classroom but the reinforcement from high school role models was so important. Their hard work and positive examples make a difference.”

Mrs. Tarcson had an unexpected, yet positive experience during Kindness Week.

“One of our nutrition center workers made a point to come and tell me that she knew it was Kindness Week and so she rolled down her window and thanked her garbage collector as she was pulling out of her driveway on Tuesday morning. He was taken aback and told her that she made his day,” Mrs. Tarcson said. “I absolutely love that our Kindness Week has spread out into the world! That is our hope – make kindness contagious!”