Peer Helping brings RAK Week back to New Trier

“Be Kind” and “Warm and Fuzzy Project” promote wellness at school

Peer Helping brought Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, a nationwide event, to New Trier during the first week of March.
While this isn’t the first year Peer Helping has encouraged New Trier to participate, each year Peer Helping comes up with new ideas to increase the impact that RAK week has on students.

This year, for example, was the first that the club customized coffee sleeves at the Bean Team with kindness stickers.
Co-sponsor of Peer Helping, Kathryn Kalnes, said that the intention of the week stays the same from year to year.
“The goal of RAK week [is] to promote kindness throughout the school community.”

In addition to the kindness sticker coffee sleeves, Peer Helping also handed out kindness stickers for students to wear, created boxes with mindfulness and kindness activities for advisers and their advisees, hung up posters, and made daily announcements introducing a “kindness challenge of the day.”

Erika’s Lighthouse Club also participated in the week: they co-sponsored the “Be Kind” sticker campaign. Erika’s Lighthouse wanted to get involved with they week because it aligns with their goal of educating the community about good mental health and raising awareness on the topic of teen depression.

“Kindness is one of the best ways to help promote wellness and happiness in our school, community, and greater world. I think we need to be more kind to each other every day, as we never know what struggles someone may be going through,” said sponsor of Erika’s Lighthouse Club Steven Rish.
Students and staff alike spoke positively of the week and its impact on the New Trier community.

“I think Random Acts of Kindness Week is really special, because a lot of the time we don’t realize how the little actions can actually have a really huge impact on people,” said junior Chloe Cohen.

Social Studies teacher Chris Van Den Berg said that conscious acts of kindness are important, and that the week helps facilitate such acts.
“I think it’s good for people to think deliberately about it, and to be intentional about it. Because with anything, the more you do it the easier it becomes,” said Van Den Berg.

Although students and staff appreciate the efforts of Peer Helping and Erika’s Lighthouse, some voiced the concern that the school should be doing more to promote kindness every week.

Junior Stella Kustra said, “Random Acts of Kindness Week is a little bit pointless. We don’t need a week to specifically be nice to each other. I feel like it should be more year-round.”

MCL faculty member, Kerri Simmons, responded to this issue by spearheading the “Warm and Fuzzy Project,” which was started a few weeks ago in an effort to spread love and compassion after the passing of a student. They hope to make the “Warm and Fuzzy Project” a permanent Trevian thing.
The project is based on pieces of yarn–its characteristics were actually what inspired the creation of the project’s name.

“The yarn should be given out in twos. One piece is given with a non-appearance [based] compliment. Then, the other piece of yarn is given to them with the request to ‘say it forward.’ That is, to pay a non-appearance [based] compliment to someone else,” said Simmons.

When someone receives a piece of yarn, they are supposed to tie it someplace visible–a popular spot is on one’s backpack–so that they are reminded of the complement often.

Currently, there are strings outside the cafeteria available for students to take.

Junior Taylor Jones, a student in the Simmons advisery, acknowledged that gifting a piece of string might seem trivial. However, she said that the little things can often make the greatest impact on someone’s day.

“Sure, it’s a piece of string, but you can give such a genuine heartfelt complement with it. Even if it’s silly, or even if it’s little, the whole environment that the ‘Warm and Fuzzy Project’ encourages and fosters, that’s what we’re going for,” said Jones.

Junior Joey Vircole, also a member of the Simmons advisery, at first predicted that the project would be unsuccessful.
“At first I was skeptical. I was like, ‘nobody’s going to do this,’ because people are busy.”

After seeing the number of students that have become involved in the project though, Vircole now has realized its full potential.
“We have definitely made an impact, and I’m proud to be in the advisery that came up with it,” said Vircole.