Last Friday, October 13, The Rolla Middle School held their inaugural “Kindness Campaign”, a day devoted to raising awareness of different disabilities, bringing the students closer together with lifestyles they may not previously have known much about. Cathy Fels, educator at Rolla Middle School and co-chair of the Kindness Campaing, said the event evolved from a previous program.
About 24 years ago we started a day used to be called acceptance awareness day and over the years it's kind of evolved been revamped into a day where we bring in presenters that talk about a variety of challenges disabilities,” she explained.
Throughout the day, middle school students traveled to different rooms to learn about people living with disabilities or other challenges. The topics discussed ranged from blindness and deafness, to mental illnesses. Students even discussed challenges some children deal with that aren’t necessarily considered disabilities, such as the adoption and foster care system.
Fels’ co-chair Jessika Zinc gave a presentation to the kids before they were led by their teachers to the different stations.
“It’s the first year we’ve had this kind of event through all grade levels…we’re spreading kinds like confetti,” said Zinc. After telling the students what the day is about, Zinc said she was surprised with how many kinds already have examples of individuals they knew who were struggling with different disabilities, and with the positive response each of them exhibited as they learned what different challenges people might experience each day.
“They’re very excited,’ Zinc said as they left the auditorium where she gave her presentation. Zinc said that from hearing community members and volunteers share their stories, they would “develop empathy and compassion, stepping up to be leaders and kind to everyone.”
In addition to the presentations made by various members of the community, activities were set up in the gymnasium to help students gain a firsthand experience of what it’s like to live with different disabilities. Students were given oversized gloves and told to pick up small objects from a table, some were equipped with large tubes over their arms, preventing them from being able to move them like they wanted. Students also had the chance to experience what it was like to use a wheelchair, pushing themselves from one side of the gym to the other.
Students from Rolla High School also volunteered their time to help the middle school students make the most out of their day. Having gone through a similar day in their middle school careers, the high school ambassadors served as hosts for the presenters, and watched over some of the acitvities.
Alorah Jones, high school volunteer, said her experience with the Kindness Campaign, back when it was called Acceptance Awareness Day, was positive and wanted to help the students appreciate the material that was being discussed.
“Going through the first time, it was so much fun to learn and to see what it’s like from other people’s perspectives,” she said. “I just hope they take away as much as possible, and they learn a little bit more about themselves and about what they can do to help everybody else, what they can do to help those who are in need.”