Bridgeport students ‘sticking together’ to spread kindness

T-L Photos/CARRI GRAHAM ABOVE: Bridgeport Elementary School kindergartners add their names to the kindness pledge banner Thursday morning. Pictured from left are Jase Campbell, Kade Glavaris and Joseph Marsh

BRIDGEPORT — Around 800 students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, took Bridgeport schools’ pledge on Thursday morning to be kind.

The pledge was part of the Bridgeport Exempted School District’s Kindness Program with the theme “stick together against bullying.”

The program was held Thursday throughout the elementary, middle and high schools, beginning with a live video shown in each classroom. Students watched as the schools’ “guidance team,” which includes Vicki Falcone, high school guidance counselor; Kayla Dixon, Southeast Health Care school-based therapist; and Michele Helms and Holly Garvin of Belmont County Student Services, spoke of the importance of spreading kindness.

The video concluded with students raising their right hands and repeating the kindness pledge.

Afterward each grade level made their way to the gymnasium where every student in grades K-12 signed their name on a piece of duct tape — symbolizing the strength of sticking together — and placed it on the pledge banner. While older students signed a commitment form, younger students will draw pictures of how to be kind.

Falcone said the program is about joining together and being kind.

“Bridgeport is a really nice place to be. We have a very supportive culture here, and I just thought this was something to put icing on the cake and bring us all together, bring us closer and to make a commitment for all of us to be kind — kindness, acceptance and inclusion,” she said. “We’re family here. We’re strong like duct tape here. Bulldogs stick together.”

Falcone said the goal is to spread kindness in the schools and make the community a better place.

“I don’t really like the term bullying because hurt people hurt people, so if we work to be nice, be kind and pay it forward, we can make a nicer place to be,” she said. “If we can make it a better place here and our students can go home and into the community, maybe we can make the community of Bridgeport a nicer place.”

Middle school Principal Anne Haverty Lawson said kindness leads to positive change.

“Making positive choices is going to have positive outcomes,” she added.

Lawson said each month the schools hold a character development program where the students’ schedules are modified to accommodate the activities. Most recently, students were instructed to read the book “One Word,” the children’s edition, by Jon Gordon that encourages people to select one word to describe what they strive to achieve for the year. The students did this for the 2022-23 school year.

“Kids chose words like positive, inspire, diligent. Those are the words they’re going to work at accomplishing. They chose great words,” she said, adding that this is another program that promotes positivity.

Michael Styles, a senior at the high school, added his name to the banner. He said he enjoyed the program presentation, adding that it is “responsible” to be kind.

Caiden Brado, a sixth grade student who signed the banner, said he always makes an effort to be nice to people in order to make their day. Every day in school, during lunch, he said he tells students and teachers to have a nice day. One teacher in particular has remarked that it always makes them smile, he added.

The day coincided with Unity Day, when students were encouraged to wear orange to represent unity and togetherness. Unity Day, which is actually on Oct. 19 though the school decided to observe it along with the Kindness Program, is an event associated with National Bullying Prevention Month

Two banners encompassing hundreds of pieces of colorful duct tape with the names of students — one from grade school students and one from middle and high school students — will hang in the hallways of the schools.

“Every day the kids will see the pledge they made,” Falcone said.


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