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After returning from the Thanksgiving holiday break, Prairie Wind Elementary sixth grader Sam Obrecht called on his some 442 classmates to commit a total of 1,000 acts of kindness – at home, school, or out in the community – before the school year ends. He defines kindness as “people helping other people.” LCSD1/courtesy

CHEYENNE – Sam Obrecht was spending the Thanksgiving holiday at his cousin’s house when they noticed leaves piled up in the neighbor’s driveway.

“So we decided to rake the leaves,” Sam, who is a sixth grader at Prairie Wind Elementary, said Wednesday morning. “The next morning, they came over and said ‘thank you.’ It made them feel good, and it made us feel pretty good, too.”

But Sam didn’t stop there.

“I thought, ‘What if everyone at our school did one act of kindness?’” he said. “That could change the community.”

So, after the holiday break, Sam shared his idea with the rest of his school and called on his 442 classmates to commit a total of 1,000 acts of kindness – at home, school or out in the community – before the school year ends.

He defines kindness as “people helping other people.” Students at Prairie Wind are encouraged to submit a photo of their kindness-in-action, which will be on display at the school.

“They all thought it was a great idea,” Sam said. “They wanted to get started right away.”

As Laramie County School District 1 continues to focus on boosting its anti-bullying efforts, the district’s community relations director, Mary Quast, said the kindness challenge in an informal enhancement for formal anti-bullying programs like Olweus and Second Step.

“Any time we can encourage improving school culture and kindness within our schools, it definitely works well with (those programs),” Quast said.

Sam’s project is just getting underway, but some students have already started thinking about what they can do to brighten another person’s day.

Rhonda Lobatos, who is a behavior interventionist at Prairie Wind, said that after Sam presented his idea, a group of sixth graders approached her about cleaning up the lost and found, and assisting the school custodian.

“We’re already working really hard to build a culture where kids feel respected and like they belong,” Lobatos said. “The kindness challenge is just icing on the cake. We have so many student leaders, like Sam, coming forward, asking how they can help make our community a better place.”

Emma Rada, a fifth grader at Prairie Wind, is one of those students. She decided to join forces with a group of friends to leave nice notes on each other’s desks.

“To me, kindness means being nice to everybody,” Emma said. “Not just the people who are nice to you.”

Sam, who started the kindness movement at Prairie Wind, said once his school has completed its 1,000 good deeds, he wants to challenge other schools in the district to do the same.

In the meantime, he’s working with his grandmother on a new idea.

“We’re going to write positive messages on colorful pieces of paper and leave them on people’s car windshields in parking lots,” Sam said. “I just really want to make everybody happy.”

Kathryn Palmer is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached at kpalmer@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynbpalmer.

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