Longmont's Main Street School engages in The Great Kindness Challenge

By Karen Antonacci, Staff Writer, Times-Call

Story was originally posted in the Times-Call >>

For the first time, about 100 students at Longmont's Main Street School participated in the national Great Kindness Challenge, a weeklong bullying prevention initiative.

As part of the challenge, students from kindergarten to adults in Main Street School's special education programs worked to spread kindness around the school and community.

Some students cleaned up the campus while others made blankets and scarves to give to the OUR Center and the Longmont Humane Society.

Main Street School caters to students with disabilities. Building Administrator Heidi Weekley said that students could have a range of issues that prevented them from accessing education at other schools, whether it is an emotional disability, physical disability or a student on the autism spectrum.

Weekley said that students throughout the school's various programs focused on kindness throughout the week in between regular instruction.

"We've wanted to encourage students to practice random and purposeful acts of kindness towards one another," she said. "Overall, it has made the climate of the building much more supportive and positive."

Some students delivered fleece blankets to the Peaks Care Center assisted living facility. Students in the transitional program were learning about how to use public transit, so students made baked goods and delivered them to RTD bus drivers.

Other students aim to volunteer at the Longmont Humane Society thrift store and shelter. Another class beautified the school itself, painting recycling bins and picking up trash.

One class had Longmont police officers come speak to the students about the importance of kindness. In return, the students brought donuts to the officers at the Longmont police station.

Others made bird feeders for local parks or collected toys for a toy drive at the Longmont Public Library. Younger students made thank-you cards for school employees and others in the students' lives.

The school held an assembly where students received a certificate for completing The Great Kindness Challenge.

Scott and Gina Black attended the assembly to watch their 19-year-old son, Mack, who is on the autism spectrum, present about the projects his class has been working on for the past week.

Mack Black and his classmates told the other students how they made baked goods to deliver to RTD drivers.

Gina Black said that Mack enjoys people, so he has had a lot of fun helping others this week. Scott Black added that Mack is kind by nature.

"It's a value that everyone should strive for," Scott Black said. "If everyone could be more like him, we'd all be better off."

Tina Bankhead, a special education teacher for second through fourth grade, said that her students loved focusing on kindness for a week.

"We made so many posters and cards and picked up trash and made blankets, but the best part about it was that we got to interact with other classrooms and the students made new friends who are different ages," she said.

One of Bankhead's students, 7-year-old Christian Gutierrez, said he had a good time making felt blankets for the elderly.

"I learned to be kind the rest of my life," Gutierrez said while licking frosting off a cupcake at the dessert reception following the assembly.

From left, Main Street School student Ellli McKinney, special education teacher Viki Gray and other students bring boxes of toys to the Longmont Public Library for The Great Kindness Challenge on Friday. (Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer)