Two Area Schools Win $5,000 Prize

The Lifestyle Publications Elevate Kindness Challenge, our yearlong initiative that encouraged local middle school students to brainstorm ways to cultivate kindness in their buildings, finished its final round at the close of the school year. Our last round was a challenge for the teachers and administrators in each building to come up with an idea for the 2018-2019 school year that they think will help create a thoughtful and more inviting learning environment. Two winners were selected, one from the Blue Valley School District and one from the Olathe School District, and each winning school was awarded $5,000 from Commerce Bank and Audi Shawnee Mission.

Overland Trail Middle School was the recipient of the Blue Valley School District award, winning for its Falcon Points project. Teacher Misti Wald worked with her students to come up with ideas that they believed could make their school a better place.

“The students came up with the idea to keep track of Falcon points electronically via their student IDs,” she says. “Teachers can award Falcon points to students who do random acts of kindness.”

The Falcon points earned by students can be cashed in at a concession stand during lunch periods once a month. Students will be able to use Falcon points to acquire special snacks, beverages and OTM spirit-wear. The hope is that students will be more likely to do random acts of kindness and will be prompted to look for ways to be kind and in turn, will have a snowball effect throughout Overland Trail.
“I thought the contest sounded like a great way for my students to take ownership of a real-world problem,” Misti says. “I also liked the idea that their vision and ideas could become a reality.”

Our Olathe School District recipient of the $5,000 grant is Pioneer Trail Middle School. Teachers Liz Bogdan and Cami Dunlap developed an idea that promotes compassion and empathy through character education, mindfulness and affirmation statements.

“We wanted to cultivate a positive mindset for the students,” Cami says.

Phase one of their three-year program includes developing a student pledge or motto. Through the implementation of character education and the Second Step Program, students will receive training on developing positive relationships, conflict resolution and making good personal choices. By the end of the year, they hope to see a decrease in tardy/absenteeism and office referrals.

“Our dream is to see students demonstrating confidence in themselves, pride in their school and compassion toward others,” Liz says. “As this plan continues to unfold, we would like to include mindfulness activities to help students better manage stress.”

Elevate was a project that we at Lifestyle Publications wanted to implement in our area middle schools as a way to show kids that their ideas and actions can make a difference and can change the world around them. Each month, we were continually impressed with the ideas that poured in from area students. This contest could not have been possible without our generous sponsors at Audi Shawnee Mission and Commerce Bank. When we first reached out to area businesses inquiring about sponsorship for this kindness challenge, both Audi Shawnee Mission and Commerce Bank responded immediately. Their enthusiasm and willingness to support our local schools in a way that encourages children to think of ways to be kind citizens was very impressive and inspiring. Both sponsors were excited to see what our students came up with each month and wanted to see our area students empowered to make positive changes in their buildings.

“At Commerce Bank, we strive each day to help people through different challenges they’re facing in life, and we do it with kindness and sincerity,” says Cindy Ford, senior vice president and group manager of retail for Commerce Bank. “The Elevate program was a natural fit for Commerce because it emphasizes kindness in our schools, which will then translate into kindness in the workplace and beyond.”  

“At Audi Shawnee Mission, we believe it is important to treat every person with respect and kindness, and we wanted to be part of a program that encouraged and empowered our area youth to do just that,” says John Coats of Audi Shawnee Mission.

We at Lifestyle Publications want to thank both the Olathe and Blue Valley School districts for your participation in our kindness challenge, but even more so, we want to applaud all of the students and teachers who submitted ideas and projects throughout the year. All of the ideas were thoughtful and inspiring, and it is through efforts like this that change our world for the better.