Poff Elementary club promotes positivity, kindness

Thursday, November 21, 2019 | 7:57 AM

A youth kindness movement has been growing at Poff Elementary – it’s the new JAMBethekindkid club at the school.

It’s part of the popular #Bethekindkid program that’s gaining a lot of local attention. The program encourages students to be nice and lets them find ways to raise money for charities.

Poff second-grade teachers Marilyn Adams, Amy Rein and Kelly Phillips, who spearhead the group, are “very excited” about having it now at Poff.

“The main reason for JAM is to spread kindness, ” according to the three teachers.

The student-run, nonprofit JAM organization originated in 2016 by two first-grade students at Avonworth School District who approached their teacher Maureen Frew to start a club that makes items to sell for charity, according to Frew.

Since then, the Avonworth JAM team has been initiating other school districts to hop on the ‘being-kind’ wagon, and Poff is one of them. The organization is notable for its hashtag “bethekindkid” shirts, which the school sells to benefit a charity.

Poff students and staff have already been wearing their hashtag be-the-kind-kid T-shirts since last year, most notably on the group’s intended #wearitwednesday schedule. And now with an official JAM fundraising group, students can come up with ideas to make products to sell to classmates and raise money for charity.

So far, 20 students at Poff have joined the group, which is open to grades first through fifth, said the teachers.

“The kids are very enthusiastic about the JAMbethekindkid group. They are excited to share their ideas and participate in the activities. They formed a ‘Kindness Tunnel’ to greet the buses on ‘World Kindness Day.’ This was an amazing way to start the day for the entire school,” Adams said.

Poff’s JAM kindness club students meet twice a month to brainstorm ideas, including selecting a charity to raise funds for. They had “Kindness Plans” submitted the second week of the group, said Adams, who has been with Hampton school district for 32 years. Rein has been with HTSD for 26, and it’s the first year for Phillips.

Several students suggested making Kindness bracelets, made out of yarn and Rainbow Loom, to sell to their classmates and donating the proceeds to a local food bank, specifically the Network of Hope Food Pantry in Allison Park.

They hope to make beaded animal key chains/backpack tags in December. Once they’ve produced enough inventory, the JAM kids will sell the products in the mornings, according to the teachers.

The students decided they would run their group under the idea that you can’t just wear the “Kind Kid” T-shirts to be kind – you have to engage in acts of kindness to truly be considered a kind kid.

While the group is coordinated by Adams, Rein and Phillips, there are numerous parent volunteers, high school and middle school students who help spread the word throughout the community and to increase family involvement, said Adams.

There are seven types of kindness that the students focus on: compassion, generosity, gratitude, inclusiveness, integrity, respect and self-care, according to the group.

Adams does think it’s making a difference.

“We do believe it’s working. Our JAM kids, in particular, have learned about the different kinds of kindness and are more aware of things that can be defined as kind,” she said.

Fifth-grader Rose Shumaker thinks so, too.

“I wanted to have a way to share kindness with others, and to help my neighbors and donate money to charity,” said Shumaker. As one of the older student members in the club, she feels it’s her job to be a model of kindness and gain new members.

“I like to encourage younger students,” she said.

And she’s not alone in the positivity factor.

Fourth-grader Seth Mihok said he hopes that participating in the kind kid club will encourage others to be nicer to one another. Evan Hartman, who is in second grade, said he likes creating things, so he is looking forward to the part of the club where they make items to sell and then donate the money to charity. And Abigail Mascaro, third grade, said she makes her own bracelets for fun and is hoping she can use those skills to help the kind kid club at Poff.

Students are nominated and recognized by teachers for kind acts, said Adams. There is also going to be starting “Kindness Shoutouts” for students recognizing kind acts done by their classmates.

“This will increase student voice in the school, for all kids, not just our JAM club,” she said.

Overall, the JAM popularity is growing. The main organization in Avonworth trains other schools in the program. Frew said last year they added four JAMS, and this year their goal is to add 10 additional JAMS. As of September, Frew said they were working with a school in Pakistan trying to start a JAM there.

And Frew and Avonworth Principal Dr. Scott Miller were set to go to Finland this month as part of the educational HundrED program to speak about the group, she said. JAM was chosen as one of the 12 best educational initiatives in the Pittsburgh area, according to Frew.

For more information on JAM, visit bethekindkid.net.