From the December 2017 issue

Local Student Starts Kindness Club

The 12-year-old from Bloomfield Hills launched Michigan's first branch of the national nonprofit Samaritans365 at her school.

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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

  1. Notice how others feel. “If you notice someone is feeling sad in class, you can invite them to do partner work with you.”
  2. Harness positivity. “If someone’s mean to you, kill them with kindness.”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”

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