‘Kindness retreat’ targets bullying

Fourth-grade students at Kyrene del Norte Elementary School collaborated with Marcos de Niza High School DECA students during a ‘kindness retreat’ to learn about the harmful impacts of bullying and the meaning of the word respect.

Fourth-graders at Kyrene del Norte Elementary School discovered kindness in their hearts after a day of activities that opened their eyes to the impact of bullying on self-esteem.

Marcos de Niza High School student leaders, members of the school’s DECA program, met with Norte kids to assist with activities setup by Youth Frontiers, a non-profit that partners with schools across the nation to educate students about respecting themselves and others.

“We partner with schools and deliver day-long programs that teach kids about the importance of respecting themselves and respecting one another,” Youth Frontiers representative Jean Culp said.

Marcos DECA students bonded with the fourth-graders during a variety of activities designed to help kids realize the impact they have on one anther.

“Our three main programs are kindness, courage and respect,” Culp said. “Kindness is our elementary program, so the fourth graders are on that now.”

Groups of fourth graders sat in small groups with DECA student leaders, compiling lists of unkind actions they experienced in school and would like to see change.

One fourth grader handed Culp a note card with the word “stealing” written on the back, something she wants to see end at her school.

“We use the group leaders in all of our programs,” Culp said. “They are the positive voice for them (the fourth-graders), and they are part of their community. And, hopefully they see each other and continue that relationship beyond just today.”

Norte Principal Spencer Fallgatter said the day-long “kindness retreat” program was funded by tax credit dollars for character education. After working with Youth Frontiers, Norte developed a strong relationship with Marcos de Niza and brought student mentors into their community.

“This program has such a great impact on both the elementary kids and the high school students,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you see all these kids really change their perspective on bullying and respect.”

According to Youth Frontiers reports, 80 percent of students who went through the kindness retreat agreed somewhat or strongly that they now are more likely to help someone who is being picked on.

Heather Hunt, DECA advisor at Marcos, said her students enjoy working with the elementary students. Hunt said her students have continued to come to Norte to help kids with projects.

“They (DECA students) absolutely love it,” she said. “They realize what it’s like working with kids and getting them to understand concepts like respect and self-esteem.”

At the end of the day, groups of fourth-graders with mentor high school students reflected on what they had learned during the activities.

“From the beginning of the day to the end of the day, they change so much,” Hunt said. “The elementary students realize that they’ve been a bully, or that they were bullied before.”

Youth Frontiers visits approximately 615 schools across the United States each year.

For more information, visit www.youthfrontiers.org .



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