Kindness starts at home for Jolie Oleshansky, 12, of Bloomfield Hills – it’s as simple as reading to and playing board games with her little brother Brody. But it definitely doesn’t stop there.
Jolie recently started a branch of the national nonprofit Samaritans365 at her school. The program brings together local philanthropic leaders and lessons on being kind to yourself and others.
“I wanted to make a difference in my community. My friend in Florida started this club, and I thought it was a good way,” she says. “Now we’re the first chapter in Michigan.”
To start a chapter, both parent and child complete online training to become “ambassadors,” and the adult must undergo a background check. There are 90-plus clubs in eight states, its website notes, all geared at school-age kids.
Jolie’s club meets once a month before school starts. A group of 30 fourth and fifth graders meet a community leader, like a firefighter or representative from Make a Wish, and learn a lesson on kindness, complete with a hands-on activity.
They recently learned the power of their words, and each child wrote kind things on sticky notes until a poster board was filled. Then, they were challenged to say three of the phrases to another student they don’t normally talk to.
“The club matters to me because I don’t want anyone to feel bad or sad,” Jolie says. “I want them to know that they belong and that they’re wanted.”
Her mom Melissa, a clinical psychologist, jumped at the chance to get involved.
“I deal with a lot of bullying behaviors and social anxiety and kids not feeling confident in themselves,” she says. “I’m really hoping that instead of just anti-bullying programs, we can shift the conversation to being kind and being grateful.”
Jolie’s Ways to Spread Kindness
- Notice how others feel. “If you notice someone is feeling sad in class, you can invite them to do partner work with you.”
- Harness positivity. “If someone’s mean to you, kill them with kindness.”
- Use words. “I try to pick three words a day to say to someone new so they can feel better if they have a bad day.”
- Make others feel welcome. “I try to be kind by not whispering in front of people and inviting new people to sit with me at lunch.”