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Doering students make connections through Kindness Club

Date: 2/3/2021

AGAWAM – The Kindness Club at Roberta Doering School allows students to make positive connections with the Agawam community.

Over the past four years, students of the middle school have generated ideas for bettering the school community at large. Karen Cree, the school adjustment counselor at Roberta Doering, told Reminder Publishing that the basis for the club began after a student tragically passed away around four years ago. According to Cree, it was evident that students at the school needed some form of healing.

“Students were looking for different ways to feel better,” said Cree. “That’s really how Kindness Club kicked off. We had a really big group that year.” Since Cree and another Doering staff member are usually the only two people advising the club, the student limit is now 25 per year.

Cree provides psychological education for the students about what kindness is, why it is important and how it can help cut down on bullying problems throughout the school community.

“I usually show them some videos of what other kindness clubs around the country are doing,” said Cree. “And then I let them generate ideas for bettering the school community.”

There was a sixth grade student at Roberta Doering who was diagnosed with leukemia last year, so in response, Cree taught Kindness Club students about the disease itself, and how it can affect the body.

The students in the club created sunshine baskets with positive quotes and funny memes, and gave these baskets to the student who was diagnosed with leukemia.

Students in the past have also put positive sticky notes on other students’ lockers after school, and they have also handed out candy canes and sang Christmas carols outside of the Town Hall.

During the pandemic, the club has pivoted to virtual communication. Every Wednesday, which is the day every student in the district participates in remote learning, the students and Cree converse over a Zoom call to discuss what it means to feel a sense of belonging.

“We have some healthcare workers come in and speak to the kids, especially about the elderly and how they have the same needs as the kids,” said Cree. “They’ve talked about some of the loneliness that has crept in for the elderly.”

The students put together “cheer cards” with the middle school’s art teacher that were eventually dispersed across a couple of different nursing homes in the area. The club and the school’s choir is also now working with Quail Run to record a couple of songs for the residents that live there. Quail Run has their own choir that will be participating, as well.

“I have a couple of other students that are working on a pen pal initiative, and another couple of students working on a box of Valentine’s [cards],” said Cree. For the Valentine’s cards, Cree said that students are thinking about sending them over to the Council on Aging and Senior Center in Agawam.

“It’s student-led and adult-supported,” said Cree, with regard to the club. “So I just try to support whatever ideas they have.”

Cree noted how most of the students who ask to join the club are those who struggle the most. As the counselor of the school, Cree said that the student openness is great, because she will find pupils that were not originally on her radar, but should be.

“I think we have great potential to continue growth, because we’re a fifth and sixth grade group, so then I encourage my fifth graders to become leaders for the next year,” said Cree. Students at the Agawam Junior High School are also planning on creating their own Kindness Club in the near future, according to Cree.

“I think that when kids are struggling with anxiety or depression, I think when they can take their eyes off themselves, they can then help somebody else, which helps make them feel better,” said Cree. “And obviously it can impact and help the person on the receiving end.”