Sunnyside Elementary begins kindness campaign (Slideshow)

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Sunnyside Elementary’s new fund-raising campaigns have not only raised money for school supplies but have also inspired students to be kinder to one another.

When the Sunnyside PTO met to discuss some possible fund-raising ideas for the school in the 2016-17 school year, it ultimately decided that it wanted to stay away from campaigns it had done over and over in past years.

“Some parents said they didn’t want to do the typical fundraisers that we had done in the past, such as selling wrapping paper or simply asking for donations,” said PTO President Jessica Scerbo.

Instead, the PTO and Sunnyside Principal Amy Yost agreed that a more interactive approach could be beneficial to the school and its students.

Raise Craze

After brainstorming ways to have a more interactive form of fundraising, the PTO decided to bring a program called “Raise Craze” to the Sunnyside community.

Raise Craze is an online-based program in which students create profiles and then reach out to their families and friends to collect donations via those profiles.

The catch is the donors aren’t receiving any physical item in return.

Instead, for every donation students collect, they must pay the donor back with an act of kindness. The action doesn’t have to be directed at or include the donor, but focuses more on the student making a positive impact on someone else’s life or community.

“It’s been amazing so far,” said Scerbo just two days into the two-week-long campaign.

The PTO president’s daughter, Alice, said she’s already collected several donations within a week of the campaign’s duration and has also paid it forward in ways that she believes positively impacted the Shelton community.

“I went to a nursing home to bring get-well-soon cards and am going to visit the police department to drop off thank-you cards to all of the officers for keeping us safe,” said Alice, a Sunnyside second grader.

The PTO’s hope is to have participation from all of the 200-plus students in the school.

So far, students have already help stock the shelves at the Spooner House, and donated toys and sheets to children in need at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Scerbo mentioned that the kids were also given some incentive to participate.

“Our phenomenal PTO came up with the idea of this new campaign at our school and at the end of the two weeks, our students will have the chance to duct-tape me to a wall,” said Principal Yost.

For each donation a student collects the student will receive one piece of duct tape to help stick her to the wall. For every 20 acts of kindness a student does, another piece of tape will be awarded.

Yost said that after a week of the campaign, the school has already raised more than $3,000.

The school’s plan is to use the money collected through the campaign to fund field trips, new school supplies and a new playground.

The students are scheduled to tape their principal to a wall in the school on Friday, March 10.

“It’s nice to see students in the school using this as an opportunity to be nice to one another. Although we encourage our students to be kind all of the time, we’ve seen them sparking up conversations with each other and really putting forth that extra effort,” said Yost.

The formal Raise Craze campaign is scheduled to last only two weeks of school, but the school’s PTO hopes to have the overall practice of students acting kindly to one another stretch beyond the school year.

The student who raises the most money and does the most acts of kindness will have his or her photo and a bio on display in the school.

To donate to the school’s Raise Craze campaign, visit https://my.raisecraze.net/donate/ag78fj/.

The Look for Good

Sunnyside’s second fund-raising campaign goes hand in hand with the first, as it also focuses on teaching students to be kind.

The program was created by a woman named Anne Kubitsky and was inspired by a group of divers who saved a humpback whale that got trapped in a fishing net.

Principal Yost said the philosophy behind the fundraiser is that when you express gratitude it leads to kindness and appreciation.

There are several parts to this campaign. Each morning of the 10 days the campaign goes on in school, a new student from the Student Team Of Role Models (S.T.O.R.M) broadcasts a video of himself or herself from the school’s new and improved media center expressing something the they are grateful for and why.

Whatever item, person or category the student expresses gives the direction for the rest of the students in the school to follow. After all the other students in the school watch the video in the morning, they are instructed to write on a sticky note something they are grateful for and stick it on what Yost called “the Wall of Gratitude.”

As of Thursday, Feb. 16, there were more than 2,400 things the students said they were grateful for, and the list continues to grow by the day.

Groups of Sunnyside students gather around the Wall of Gratitude each morning to add to the list of things they are grateful for.

STORM students of Sunnyside Elementary School Ryan Minder, Will Platt and Shreya Yadav were a part of the effort to roll out the campaign to the rest of the student body

Will said as a STORM student he has the responsibility of being a good role model for the other students, and that having that opportunity means a lot to him.

“If I do something wrong someone might do the same as me, but the same could happen if I do something right. So I try to always be kind and make the right decisions,” said Platt, who is a first-year STORM student. “It means a lot to me and I feel like a lot of people appreciate what we do for the school and the example we’re setting.”

Shreya explained that the sticky notes are only a small portion of what The Look for Good campaign entails.

“When the program first began we were all given ‘You Matter/kindness cards.’ Every student and every teacher began the campaign with some of them and were told to pass them out if they saw someone do an act of kindness.”

The students and teachers were told to put their initials on the cards before passing them out. Acts of kindness can range from complimenting another student to playing with a student who needs a friend during recess, according to STORM adviser Darla Lussier.

Yost said the purpose is to teach students to be kind to one another and eliminate bullying through positive reinforcement.

Lussier said there are more ways in which the school is getting all of the students to participate.

“In the hallways there are orange spots/stickers on the floor that when students step on them they have to say one thing they are thankful for and why,” said Lussier.

STORM student Will Platt stood on one of the orange spots in the Sunnyside Elementary School hallway and said that he was thankful for his father.

Ryan and Shreya said their level of appreciation for their families increased after the program was introduced to them and that expressing their gratitude to people is something they will continue after it ends.

For the final piece of the campaign, students are instructed to write a thank-you letter to someone to whom they’re grateful and then read it to the person.

Look for the Good T-shirts with the message “You matter,” for sale to help support the positive campaign. They may be purchased by calling the school at 203-922-3021.

Yost said the school’s Wall of Gratitude will remain intact for the remainder of the year and the students are encouraged to continue to express what they’re grateful for, as well as whom they’re thankful for.

“I told them that you never know how telling someone what they mean to you could mean to them,” said Yost.

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