The new, bright signs hanging in most of your teachers’ classrooms are more that just decoration; this semester marks the beginning of the Kindness Zone, the newest Peer to Peer group on campus. The Kindness Zone is a collection of upperclassmen leaders within the previously existing Peer to Peer programs and Leadership, collaborating to foster a kind environment at LGHS. Their purpose is simple: “Our mission is to promote understanding and acceptance and take a stance against hate. We hope to engage the entire student body in our pursuit of kindness. We also aim to foster individual responsibility for all students, so that we know that our actions have an impact.”
Peer to Peer education pioneers Nancy Offer and Mariana Cozzella spearheaded the creation of the Kindness Zone in response to an increase in bullying and hate at LGHS and across the nation. Cozzella encountered some anti-Semitic symbols written on an anonymous survey response, which she reported to vice principal Alex Chapman and to Offer. The Kindness Zone was partly inspired by Safe Space, a program created by the Gay Straight Alliance to make LGBTQ+ students feel comfortable on campus. Offer explained, “The thing about Safe Space is that it’s just a one second thing. It’s saying that you’re safe here, but it doesn’t really do anything. So then I thought of Mariana’s comment, ‘be kind,’ and then I came up with Kindness Zone with Mariana and Mr. Chapman… It’s not just helping all of us understand how to be kind to each other, but holding each other accountable for when we’re not.” English teacher Kathleen Wehr and Reality Check advisor Holly Osment will also guide the Kindness Zone.
Senior Cami Lutwak is one of the Reality Check and Leadership representatives on the Kindness Zone team. Lutwak stresses the importance of creating a compassionate environment at LGHS as well as creating accountability for those who promote hate: “Through Kindness Zone I hope to reach out to the students that other peer to peer groups don’t: the “bullies.” While celebrating those who are continuously kind in our community and helping the victims in situations is extremely important, connecting with and changing the actions of the unkind is what will ultimately impact the future.” Lutwak also believes that her past experience in the Peer to Peer program will aid her in understanding her peers and effectively promoting kindness. “On Reality Check, my job is to spread awareness on the unknown and uncomfortable topics that are typically left unsaid. Similarly with Kindness Zone, I hope we can inform students that their hurtful words can truly harm people and then try to promote kindness within them.”
Future projects for the Kindness Zone include featuring LGHS students “Caught in Kindness” who promote themes of acceptance and compassion to their peers. The Peer to Peer groups suggest student to the Kindness Zone, then the students’ profiles will be featured in the main hall. The Kindness Zone staff also plans on selecting two universal role models each month. Additionally, upcoming projects include a student-produced Wall of Kindness, a Safety Pin Challenge, and a video discussing hate speech and bullying at LGHS. Check out the Leadership bulletin board in the main hallway for future information.