Peggy Temple, a teacher, curriculum coordinator and director of Rachel's Challenge at Lokelani Intermediate School in Kihei, has inspired a culture of compassion among her students by having them perform daily acts of thoughtfulness and kindheartedness.
"Making the world a better place with one act of kindness at a time is our vision at Lokelani Intermediate," said Temple, who, this past August, initiated a school training program in partnership with the Rachel's Challenge group.
"We had them kick off our kindness campaign at the beginning of the school year," said Temple.
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Photo: Erin Tinker
Rachel's Challenge is a nonprofit foundation set up by the Scott family in honor of their daughter, Rachel, who was the first victim of the 1999 Columbine tragedy. Once invited, the organization comes into the school and instructs students on how to initiate and sustain a chain reaction that can transform their school and community.
Rachel left a legacy of reaching out to those who were different, who were picked on by others, or who were new at her school. Shortly before her death, she wrote, "I have a theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
"The Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club, started in August 2013, keeps that training alive on campus all year," said Temple, who, as program coordinator, looked into getting FOR lessons to share with the teachers and for club activities. It was during this time that Temple came across the Pay It Forward Day Foundation and the International Day of Kindness.
Making the world a better place with one act of kindness at a time is the ideology behind the 2000 Catherine Ryan Hyde novel, "Pay It Forward." Ryan's book, which was adapted into a movie of the same name, describes the obligation to do three good deeds for others in response to a good deed that one receives. In this way, the practice of helping one another can spread exponentially, creating a social movement to make the world a better place.
Temple brought the information about Pay It Forward back to the FOR Club. The students loved the idea, as it fit perfectly into their FOR lessons. Next, they decided to ask the governor of Hawai'i if they could proclaim April 24 as Pay It Forward Day for the state.
Starting in November 2013, Temple applied for the proclamation from Gov. Neil Abercrombie and then asked Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa to also proclaim the date as Pay It Forward Day.
With a "yes" from the governor and the mayor, preparations began.
"We made a map of the world that showed all of the 67 countries involved in the Pay It Forward movement, as well as of the participating states, which now proudly includes Hawai'i." Temple said.
The club members decided to observe an entire week of kindness from April 21 to 25. Cards were made for the students to sign following their random acts of thoughtfulness, which would then be passed on to another student. Flyers were distributed and posters put up around the school. They celebrated the newly proclaimed Pay It Forward Day with an ice cream social.
On Monday, April 21, five student representatives of the FOR Club went to the mayor's office along with Temple to receive the two proclamations.
"The concepts of selfless giving and intentional acts of kindness resonate with me," said Deputy Mayor Keith Regan, a co-founder of the Aloha Initiative who delivered the message for the mayor. "Helping people without the expectation of receiving anything in return is one of the most rewarding experiences."
"Thinking about the many good deeds the youth of Lokelani Intermediate School and the FOR Club would do this week--and hopefully for their lifetime--is moving," said Regan. "I hope their initiative becomes a model for other schools in our county and state to follow, and that the number of intentional acts of kindness continues to grow. We are very proud of them."
"Kindness is fun to do," said Lokelani seventh-grader Marcil Choun, a member of FOR. "We work as a team and help each other. We give great ideas on how to assist, from opening a door to giving a pencil to someone without."
When the ceremony at the mayor's office ended, the group went to Ruby's for lunch. At the restaurant, the manager heard the Pay It Forward students were there, and immediately asked them for flyers and cards so that the restaurant could participate.
"It was a great tribute to the day and a great response for our students to see!" Temple said, noting that offensive incidents in the school are at an all-time low.
"We are hoping that this day, April 24, takes off throughout Maui County, so that next year we can plan activities with other schools, organizations and other islands," said Temple, who will be teaching an elective Rachel's Challenge/Pay It Forward class next year at Lokelani.