After a bitter and bruising political season, one school's decision to formally promote kindness couldn't have come at a better time.
For the second year in a row, Carson Valley Middle School students are celebrating 15 Days of Kindness.
"After completion of the program last year, we polled students, and 93 percent said 15 Days of Kindness contributed to a positive shift in the school's climate, that it made a difference," said CVMS counselor Tracey Wadelton. "We have that same sort of energy this year. What we're looking to do is not only shift the climate in our school, but also in the community."
Sponsored by the school's Make a Difference club and Brian Williams of the nonprofit group Think Kindness, the event kicked off Nov. 1 with 2,000 kindness cards.
"We're the first middle school (in the country) to get this program started," Wadelton said. "The second is Sun Valley, Idaho, which is a middle/high school. We're in a friendly competition to spread kindness."
Resembling a credit card, each kindness card contains a code that allows users to track and contribute to the card's traveling history online at kindnesscards.org. A person receives the card as the beneficiary of an act of kindness. After they report their own experience and review the card's history, they're expected to "pay it forward" with their own act of kindness.
The idea is to record a million acts of kindness across the country, if not the globe. Adults can participate, too, by purchasing a card for $2 at the school's counseling office.
"If we get to 10,000 logged actions, you may be the one to throw a pie in the face of our very own administrators," Branden Basche of Make a Difference informed his fellow students during the kick-off.
Other prizes in the friendly competition included free homework passes and extra lunchtime.
"Doesn't it feel great when someone takes that time to compliment you, to tell you that you're doing a great job, or that you really helped them out?" Basche asked. "One nice compliment can make your whole day. Think about that. Just a few kind words can make a person feel better. That is the essence of 15 Days of Kindness."
Besides the cards, each day of the program corresponds to a specific act of good will - a day devoted entirely to opening doors for others, a canned food drive, a letter writing campaign for troops overseas, and family and community appreciation days. The event will end on Nov. 21 with teacher appreciation day.
Wadelton said the campaign last year produced lasting effects on the campus. She hopes for a similar outcome this year.
"When adults come to our school, they ask us how we get students to open the doors for other students," she said. "That's now a CVMS thing. We open the doors for each other."