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South Valley Journal

Foothills students ‘come alive’ with service

May 30, 2018 12:09PM ● By Jet Burnham

Kindness Week kicks off to the rousing music of “The Greatest Showman.” (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Principal Cherie Wilson, of Foothills Elementary in Riverton, has recently been dancing around the school in a long-tailed red jacket and top hat. Wilson played the part of the Greatest Showman for the school’s Kindness Week assembly and isn’t ready to give up the role. 

“I think [the students] are starting to associate the ringmaster with kindness,” said Wilson. “I'll dress up in the costume here and there during the day to bring the 'magic' to the kids—they get so excited.”

Wilson dazzled students and faculty at a kick-off assembly, singing and dancing to music from the popular movie, “The Greatest Showman.” The music, the energy, the dancing and the confetti stirred the students into a frenzy of excitement. 

“That soundtrack really speaks to kids,” said Katie Thomas, a fifth-grade teacher who developed the idea for the theme. “To be able to put that live for the kids—that was incredible.” 

Students were invited to “Come Alive” with kindness and look for opportunities to help and compliment others all week. They were provided with kindness buttons to trade with each other whenever they performed or received a kind deed. 

“The principal exchanged hers about 50 times in the lunchroom alone,” said Thomas.

Thomas is the leader of the Excellence Team, a group of teachers who work to create a positive atmosphere in the school. Their previous Kindness Week, held in December, highlighted reasons to be kind. 

“This time, we really saw a need to focus on service,” said Thomas.

During May’s Kindness Week, students gave service to their school, country, community and to themselves. Classes participated in neighborhood cleanup projects, a clothing drive and writing letters to servicemen. They competed in a penny wars competition to raise money for Primary Children's Medical Center’s cancer research.

The students had a visual reminder to think of others: an ever-growing paper chain, detailing kind acts each student had performed, stretched along the hallway walls. To the delight of students, Wilson was also taped to the wall [JM1] as a reward when the chain finally grew long enough to loop through the entire school. 

Wilson said the fun and positive atmosphere Team Kindness (which included Student Council members and the Excellence Team) created provides a better learning environment for students. 

“When kids feel safe, loved and cared for, they will work harder,” she said.

Kindness has become the culture of the school.

“Kids look for those kind acts, and it has just become the norm,” said Wilson. “Staff are recognizing each other, students are recognizing each other, and students will recognize their teachers and vice versa. It's great.”

Kindness Week officially began April 30 with Comcast Cares Day, when 568 community members, school staff and Comcast employees worked to complete service projects around the school. 

Comcast employee Britton Carroll said Foothills had the largest group of volunteers of all six Comcast Cares sites that day.

“There were so many people here, we ran out of projects to do,” said Wilson.

She said the work allotted for the four-hour time frame was finished in two.

“It was amazing—the turnout and the support of this community,” she said.

Volunteers happily cleaned classrooms and washed walls and windows. When they were done, they moved on to bathrooms and the library. 

Outside, families planted Arctic Willow shrubs and fountain grass, filled plant beds with bark, repaired the field, picked up trash and leaves on the playground and swept walkways. 

There were plenty of opportunities for volunteers of all ages to help, said Amy Sheetz, who brought her three children to help. 

“They had enough kid-appropriate jobs for them,” said Sheetz. “They had little buckets that the kids could put the bark in and haul it over to the flower beds.” 

Foothills students were excited to help serve their school, many of them clocking the service hours necessary to earn their Mustang Pride Award. To earn the end of the year award, students K-3 are required to perform four hours of service; grades 4-6 require twice that amount. Thirty to 40 percent of students earn the award each year.