Annette Tate’s creative writing class of ninth graders focused on aiding others over the holiday break in a project they called 26 Acts of Kindness. | Alison James

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BRHS freshmen give back over holidays

Published 11:57am Saturday, January 26, 2013

Several Benjamin Russell High School students spent their holiday break doing acts of kindness for others – and it wasn’t even for a grade.

Creative writing teacher Annette Tate was discussing the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting with her ninth grade class, and it was a discussion that led to the 26 Acts of Kindness project.

“I challenged them to participate in 26 acts of kindness,” Tate said. “They texted me pictures of what they were doing … They performed all sorts of different acts.”

Tate asked the students to document their acts and have their parents verify them. Even without the motivator of being graded, Tate said about 75 percent of her class decided to participate in the project, and she was overwhelmed by what they did for others.

“I made this cross to put on my grandmother’s grave,” said Richard Vaughan. “I went up there with my dad and my uncle because they really miss her a lot.”

Other students helped families who were going through illness and put together gifts for those in need. One student went to visit an elderly woman who used to be her babysitter.

“She just couldn’t believe that I would still come to visit her after all the years that it’s been since I’ve seen her,” Ruth Anne Ballard said. “It felt good to me to see her, too.”

Zyanna Milner found her opportunity to act on a visit with her uncle for his cancer treatments. She decided to take the time to visit with the children who had cancer.

“It just made me very happy to see a smile on another child’s face,” Milner said.

Adam Avery said he found five acts to do in the first day – from picking up trash to donating to the Salvation Army. But one contribution had a direct correlation to the shooting – he participated in a “ceasefire” promoted by GamerFitNation.

“You weren’t supposed to play shooter games on one of the Fridays after the shooting because of the shooting, and I joined that,” Avery said.

James Tompkins said he and his sister completed an act of kindness for their landlord.

“We got all the sticks and everything and piled them up against a tree and picked up his yard,” Tompkins said. “We did that twice.”

Tate said that even though the project is over, many of the students have told her that they still seek out ways to be kind.

She said she thought the project was a good move toward teaching life skills – the students gained confidence, kindness and leadership abilities.

“It was a lesson that was well worth their time,” Tate said.