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Freedom’s ‘Virtuals’ Find Purpose in Spreading Kindness

What started as a support group for students returning to Freedom Elementary after more than a year of virtual learning has morphed into a group with a singular goal - to spread kindness and make Freedom a better place. 

“I realized early on that the group needed a purpose to get reconnected and make their mark at Freedom,” said the school’s counselor, Audrey Young, who originally tagged the group “The Virtuals.” At the start, Young created the group to help spur new friendships and form a community around a group who might be experiencing similar challenges with their return to in-person learning.

The students recalled some of the activities that filled their early meetings together, many of which they co-created alongside Young. A creative spin on “Rock Paper Scissors,” for example, had students pair up, ultimately giving the “losing” team member the responsibility to be their opponent’s personal cheerleader for the next two weeks. In addition to giving students a positive challenge, Young explained that the simple activity helped sharpen conflict resolution skills. Among the group’s other focuses were stress management and to put it simply, “advocating for themselves,” Young said. 

“I was a little stressed because I didn’t know the teachers at all,” recalled fifth-grader Hazel Kaur, who had last left Freedom’s halls as a third-grader. “It really helped me learn strategies to keep calm and have the confidence to ask teachers for help when I needed it.” 

“I felt overwhelmed, so the group helped because I didn’t have to keep my feelings inside,” said sixth-grader, Zion Pilgrim, who has taken on a leadership role in the group.

While the group’s original purpose still remains a focus, the decision to redefine and ultimately rename the group the “Kindness Krew” was one spurred by the 30 or so third- through sixth-graders making up the group. More specifically, Kaur tapped into an idea she’d started pursuing two years earlier before COVID threw it off track. 

She made a case for her idea to start a kindness group with a formal presentation that she first shared with Young and later with her fellow group members. Together, they rallied behind the cause and haven’t stopped since. 

The group works beyond their bi-weekly meetings to pull off their ideas, each one supporting their mantra that “At Freedom, kindness costs nothing.” They’ve made bold statements in Freedom’s hallways, at one point filling it with posters displaying words of inspiration and another time creating tear sheets pre-filled with positive phrases that students and staff could simply tear off and pass along to someone else. They led the school’s “Stockings for Soldiers” initiative, cleaned the playground, created posters of appreciation for the staff lounge and even produced a video with messages of encouragement for patients at Children’s Hospital. 

“Now more than ever, it’s really important to spread kindness because a lot of people are struggling. And personally, when I do something kind, it makes me feel good too. It works both ways,” reflected Kaur. 

The group has no plans to slow down either. They’re planning a book reading tour in which every group member will select a kindness book and then share it with a third or fourth grade class. Pilgrim has even found a way to apply a new skill he learned in the school’s STEAM Lab and is actively developing a videogame all about spreading kindness. 

“It doesn’t feel like a job because I love spreading kindness,” said sixth-grader and Kindness Krew leader Sawyer Pawley. “We all need kindness in our lives and to feel like we belong and we don’t always feel that way.” 
 

  • philanthropy