Lunch Is on Me

In recent months, the issue of school lunch debt has drawn the nation’s attention, including a controversial story about parents’ being threatened with loss of guardianship for failure to pay. The problem is widespread. Student meal debt reportedly exists in 75 percent of US public school districts. Although the median district lunch debt is about $2,500, in some districts, the number ranges into six figures. The shortfall becomes an urgent issue at the end of the school year, when monies must be found in other parts of tight school budgets to cover the debts.

Schools handle the problem in different ways, some of which can be contentious. A district in Rhode Island faced criticism for “lunch shaming” when it provided only sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches to students whose accounts were overdrawn. There have been reports of districts’ hiring collection agencies, cafeteria workers’ throwing away hot lunches, and students’ forgoing field trips and even graduation in light of unpaid debt. Some object to punishing students for tight family finances or parental irresponsibility, while others say that the provision of free food puts an unfair burden on schools.

But amid different opinions about how to address the lunch debt issue, stories of generous students who care about their classmates’ difficulties have emerged to offer inspiration and hope.

Ire Cherry, a Kansas City third-grader who opened a bakery at age eight, learned that some of her classmates’ families were struggling to pay their lunch bills and donated $150 of her earnings to help. In Davidson County, North Carolina, a pair of sisters, Hailey and Hannah Hager, aged 14 and 11, set up a lemonade stand and hosted a hot dog lunch when they heard that their school’s student lunch debt was $3,100. Nine-year-old Ryan Kyote of Napa, California, saved up his allowance to cover his class’s $74.50 in lunch debt, and in Texas, eighth-grader Ben Hofer crowd-funded more than $10,000 to pay off the Austin Independent School District’s debt.

“I [guess] I always thought of lunches just like you go to lunch and eat,” Hofer told Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd. “But some kids might get lunch some days and not some other days, and it’s very stressful, and they might not get a good meal, because they don’t want to go over their parents’ budget, and then they won’t do well in academics or sports.”

Stories of children giving up their own time and money to help their classmates are striking; especially when you’re young, it can be challenging to put the needs of others first. But it probably comes more easily to some, according to Richard Fournier, education researcher and author of the chapter on rural schools in the book The Content of Their Character.

“I think some people are naturally very willing to help, and I think also some kids just recognize from an early age that when we do something nice—whether in private or not—we feel good, and that’s partly why we do it,” Fournier says.

At the same time, he says, adult examples have an impact.

“I do think parental and, perhaps, school influence on modeling that kind of altruistic behavior is really, really important,” Fournier says. “I have two little kids right now.… They definitely don’t want for much, so it’s going to be really important that I model for them … giving away money to charity and exposing them to situations where they can literally see people who might not have what they have and how they can help. Increasingly, I think all of these issues are actually done best through modeling more so than through any kind of explicit instruction. [Children must] see it and feel it.”

In the case of school lunch debt, adult models of generosity abound, including local business owners, large corporations like Chobani, and foundations like the one established by the mother of late cafeteria worker Philando Castile’s mother. They contribute to a social ecology of benevolence that inevitably influences children’s attitudes and behaviors.

All of this can get lost amid the heat of the school lunch debate. We live in an age when cultural disagreements mushroom into culture wars. Often, we don’t just judge each other; we judge each other harshly. One side of the conflict is cruel, selfish, heartless; the other is lazy, spendthrift, irresponsible. Listening to the accusations fly, one could conclude that America is hopelessly divided and immoral.

But then along come kids like Ben Hofer, Ryan Kyote, Ire Cherry, and Hailey and Hannah Hager. Here we see children investing their own time, their own ingenuity, and their own resources to reach out and show compassion for classmates who, through no fault of their own, are feeling shame or missing meals at lunchtime.

Perhaps, then, we are not so divided and immoral after all. If our kids are displaying moral character and unity, they inevitably learned some of that behavior from us. And if our kids aren’t so bad and we aren’t so bad, perhaps, too, we have all the more reason to invest in the moral education of our children, and to provide the role models they need to become even better, kinder, and stronger people than they already are.


Student poster contest winners promote county’s 10,000 Acts of Kindness campaign

More than a dozen students who submitted artwork depicting their vision of kindness will be recognized during a special awards ceremony for the Kid’s Kindness Poster Competition next month, when their designs will become promotional posters for a broader yearlong 10,000 Acts of Kindness campaign.

More than 1,000 students from York County, Pennsylvania and beyond submitted entries for the poster competition, which tasked students with drawing or painting what kindness means to them, the York Dispatch reports.

The winners – first, second and third place finishers for high school, middle school, elementary school and pre-k/kindergarten categories, along with a few honorable mentions – will help promote York County’s 10,000 Acts of Kindness initiative, a year-long project that culminates with a 1.8 mile table in York City’s Penn Park next June.

The table will hold 10,000 spots for people nominated by community kindness ambassadors for exemplary action, and the group will join together for a multi-cultural festival, dinner and celebration in hopes of breaking a Guinness World Record.

“It’s a way to remember the 1969 York race riots in a positive way on its anniversary next year, recognize the progress that’s been made and look forward to more change, organizers said,” according to the Dispatch. “The poster competition marks the first in a series of projects to showcase student talents as the community counts down to the big celebration.”

Officials will present student poster winners with their framed artwork at a ceremony in York City on November 7, and all submissions will be on display at the city’s Marketview Arts throughout the month.

Ramona Kinard, pastor vice president of the York Black Ministers’ Association, told the Dispatch the community-wide campaign is ultimately about taking action to help others, through kindness and compassion.

“We just want each individual to be kind to one another by doing an actual action,” she said. “Not just holding a door, but doing an actual action. Going out and cutting your neighbor’s lawn, helping an elderly person, helping a child.”

Both the 10,000 Acts of Kindness campaign and poster project are aimed at getting students focused on developing positive character virtues, something researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture found parents desperately want.

“The overwhelming majority of American parents (96 percent) say ‘strong moral character’ is very important, if not essential, to their child’s future,” according to the Institute’s “Culture of American Families” report.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation offers a wide range of resources for parents and educators to steer youngsters toward helping others, including “10 Kindness Week Ideas for Schools,” which offers daily opportunities for students to spread the love.

And while many of the activities are geared toward the foundation’s Random Acts of Kindness Week each February, nearly all involve little ways that work well to promote kind acts throughout the year.


MI student’s fundraiser for service dog offers lessons on life, character

When Sand Lake, Michigan’s Ian Christensen was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago, his uncle with the same illness offered some advice.

“You can’t let the diabetes control you,” Ian’s uncle Aaron, who lost his eyesight and a kidney to diabetes in 1996, told the then 4 year old. “You have to control it.”

Christensen took the message to heart, and two years later he’s relying on those wise words to overcome the limitations of his condition. Because Christensen’s volatile blood-sugar levels means he’s prone to medical emergencies, officials in the Tri-County Area School District determined he could not ride the bus to school unattended, ABC News reports.

The situation, along with the boy’s pleas for a new dog, sparked an idea to send Christensen to school with an alert dog, which are trained to detect changes in blood sugar well in advance of complications.

“I mentioned it to Ian … and we said, ‘if we’re gonna get a dog, let’s get one that is trained,’” Ian’s mother, Katrina Christensen, told the television station.

The family researched alert dogs and spoke with another family in the school district raising money for an alert dog. The Christensens soon realized the animal would cost roughly $25,000, and broke the news to Ian that it could take several years before they could save up enough money.

Undeterred, Ian and his family started selling lemonade and vegetables from their garden to raise funds. They also sold pumpkins, a family tradition dating back decades. The youngster wasn’t shy about sharing his mission, and soon folks were dropping off $50 bills for his special gourds.

Katrina Christensen shared Ian’s story on Facebook, as well, and within days donations poured in. Supporters online encouraged the family to launch a fundraising page and they set a goal of $20,000.

Katrina told ABC News she “wasn’t prepared at all” for the overwhelming generosity.

“The first night we raised almost $2,000, and I said ‘I’ll be happy if it’s over $2,500 tomorrow.’ And when we woke up it was $15,000!” she said.

“You can’t even imagine what it feels like to have so many people show you so much support and love,” she said. “There’s one person who donated $1,000. I don’t know who this person is. I’ve never met this person. But someone felt it in their hearts to donate $1,000 to a boy they never met. How do you even fathom that?”

Ian’s campaign quickly raised more than enough money for an alert dog, and the experience convinced the youngster to pay it forward.

“Any money left over,” Katrina Christensen told ABC, “Ian plans to donate so that another child like him can get a dog or a pump or whatever it is to make diabetes easier because he knows how hard it is.”

Ian’s story contributes to the much broader habits and traditions in society that ultimately compel people to take action to help others.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed out in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:

What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person. But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues examines how character education can ensure students are “Flourishing from the Margins” by developing a sense of purpose in young students, particularly those like Ian who struggle to fit into traditional schools.


Bullying, health issues inspire 6-year-old to spread kindness online

Illinois first-grader Ayden Cazares knows what it feels like to have a broken heart.

As a kindergartner at Ridge Elementary School in Plainfield, bullies targeted the boy by pulling down his pants, biting him and shoving him off a slide, his mother, Nelly Sainez, told the Plainfield Patch.

What the bullies likely did not know is Cazares was battling a congenital heart defect, for which he underwent surgery in August. The experience wasn’t easy, and while the now 6-year-old is recovering, he’s not sitting around sulking about his situation. Instead, he launched a Facebook page with his mother’s help to reach out to kids less fortunate than himself, to offer encouragement and help make their birthday wishes come true.

Sainez said the family came up with the idea last year when they decided to give away some of Ayden’s old toys to kids in need, and it’s since evolved into “adopting” a family for Christmas and daily video messages of support to kids who write in to the Facebook page, Aiden’s Fulfilling Your Birthday Wish.

“We found a single mom with two boys with autism and gave away toys and clothes,” Sainez said. “It just went from there.”

“He just loves making the videos,” she said.

Aiden said it’s rewarding to give presents to other kids on their birthdays, especially those who have similar stories of bullying.

“I want them to feel happy,” Cazares told CBS Chicago. “If they don’t feel happy, I don’t feel happy.”

The first-grader issued a challenge to his followers for Bullying Prevention Month in October to “be nice to someone and do something for them,” and his constant focus on others is gaining a lot of attention.

The New York-based See the Wish/Be-A-Friend Project highlighted the “6-year-old Upstander from Chicago” and collected encouraging letters from students across the country to offer support.

Through mid-October, the See the Wish campaign had collected nearly 1,000 personal letters from students commending Cazares for overcoming his life struggles and inspiring others to endure through kindness.

“You did so awesome with them, with the boys hurting you,” wrote Jaelen, a student from Texas. “You inspired me to ‘kill people with kindness.’ You are a good role model for people for all ages.”

Cazares’ experience highlights perhaps the most foundational concept of character education.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, wrote in his book “The Death of Character”:

Implicit in the word character is a story. It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self.

Parents and educators looking to inspire similar selfless kindness can find a variety of resources from The Great Kindness Challenge, an annual event put on by the nonprofit Kids for Peace.

The one-week event can be tailored to schools or families, and uses a checklist to help show youngsters what kindness really means. In 2018, more than 10 million students in nearly 20,000 schools carried out over 500 million acts of kindness in 103 countries during the last week in January.

“The Great Kindness Challenge provided an opportunity for our students to care for each other in ways that went above and beyond their normal interactions,” California elementary school principal Chad Lund said. “As a result, we noticed a real impact on the school’s culture with a decrease in bullying and an increase in compassion, unity and respect.”


OH students show commitment to kindness to raise funds for school security

Students in Geneva, Ohio schools are showing off their commitment to kindness for all to see.

Middle and high schools recently pledged to treat everyone with kindness during an event to kickoff a month of kindness awareness programs. The effort, designed by Geneva Parents for School Safety, coincides with National Bullying Prevention Month in October, the Star Beacon reports.

“Kindness is the key to overcoming bullying,” Geneva Parents for School Safety co-director and counselor Marti Milliken Dixon said. “Young people who are kind to each other have far fewer instances of bullying behavior. Teaching a young person kindness is an effective way to improve our society both locally and globally.”

About 100 students tied red and white ribbons on a fence outside of school to show their commitment to treating others with respect and intervening in bullying situations – a display that will greet visitors throughout the month.

“The ribbons blowing in the breeze will be a month-long reminder of their pledge,” Dixon said. “When we empower young people to stand up to the bullies and use positive peer pressure to curb these behaviors, the benefits are palpable. This activity also provides young people with a tangible representation of their good work.”

The kindness pledge event – along with rock painting at elementary schools, compliments day at the middle school, and the creation of a kindness garden at the community library – also serve as fundraisers for Geneva Parents for School Safety to purchase 251 emergency lockdown barriers for every classroom in Geneva Area City Schools, the Star Beacon reports.

“We’re currently at 30 percent of our fundraising goal,” Geneva Parents co-director Margie Netzel said. “Our sponsors have shown they understand the need for safety in our schools and are helping to make it happen.”

Administrators throughout the district spoke up in support of the program, and applauded the focus on rallying the community together around kindness.

“Anything we can do to help kids be sensitive to others and kinder is a positive thing,” Geneva High School Principal Douglas Wetherholt said. “The anti-bullying message is important to us.”

“We want to involve the entire community in this effort,” middle school principal Alex Anderson added.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed to the importance of school practices and connections to the community in “The Content of Their Character,” an analysis of character education in a variety of different U.S. schools.

“How a school is organized, the course structure and classroom practices, the relationship between school and outside civic institutions – all these matter in the moral and civic formation of the child,” Hunter wrote.

Parents and educators looking for tips to combat bullying can find a variety of resources from Champions Against Bullying. The group’s “No-Nonsense Guide To Kids’ Bullying Solutions,” for example, teaches students “prevention and intervention strategies, immediate practical solutions and safe and effective ways to help a friend who is being targeted by bullies,” among other topics.

AL students mount campaign against child clothing manufacturer over conditions for garment workers

Students for Fair Labor at the University of Alabama believe garment workers in El Salvador are being exploited by apparel manufacturers, so they’re pressuring university officials to do something about it.

“Our overall goal is to make multinational companies accountable to the people that they exploit who work on university campuses, in our communities and in the overseas factories where collegiate apparel is produced,” the group’s leader, Amber Chan, told The Crimson White student newspaper.

Chan explained that the University of Alabama licenses its logo to a Miami, Florida-based company called Vive La Fete, which manufacturers children’s clothes at factories in El Salvador. The company doesn’t sell clothes at the school, but does sell clothes with the university logo online.

Students for Fair Labor contends women embroidery workers are treated poorly by Vive La Fete, and the group has demanded the company pay them $1.2 million in back pay, pension, vacation days, health benefits and allow the women to form a union. Students contend the women are grossly overworked and underpaid.

The group also pressured the Student Government Association to call on the University to put Vive La Fete “on notice” by reiterating SFL’s demands to the company, according to the news site.

SFL students delivered the letter from the student government to President Stuart Bell’s office in late September and promised campus activism would “escalate in various ways” if the University fails to act on the group’s demands, Chan said.

Convincing the University to end its licensing agreement with Vive La Fete is the SFL’s ultimate goal.

“We’re just trying to keep The University of Alabama accountable for the kinds of businesses that they deal with,” said junior SFL member Rivers Jackson. “And then also just seeing that human beings are treated equally and fairly, specifically workers, and make sure their human rights are met.”

University officials have not yet responded to the students’ requests, which follow a long line of similar activism on college campuses that dates back decades.

And regardless of whether folks agree with the effort, the tradition can have a significant impact on students because “it is through experience that students participate in moral community and practice moral action,” according to James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

In his book, “The Death of Character,” Hunter wrote, “Experience is always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom.”

The Alpha Omega Academy, a Christian online academy, provides “Ways to Grow Student Involvement in Community Service” to help parents and educators get student engaged in volunteer and service work.

“Often volunteering is a reflection of a strong emotional connection to a cause that’s personally affected an individual,” the guide advises. “Find what your student is passionate about first; without a driving focus, his enthusiasm to help will quickly fade.”

“The deeper your student feels the need, the more likely he will act to better the world around him,” according to the site.

Landmark Harvard study reveals six things that contribute to long, healthy lives

A Harvard Medical School study that tracked 800 people through their entire lives recently revealed six things that made the biggest impact on their happiness, health and longevity.

The study involves several types of participants, from Harvard graduates born around 1920 to blue collar, inner city adults and intellectually gifted women specifically. And while many of the findings seem like common sense, others were less obvious, Business Insider reports.

Smoking and excessive alcohol use showed to have the biggest impact on health, while exercise and and weight management played key roles in longevity and happiness. Heavy smokers generally died sooner than others, while those with a healthy weight who enjoyed regular exercise lived longer with a better quality of life.

Years of education also made a difference. The study found “the physical health of the 70-year-old inner city man was as poor as that of the Harvard men at 80. But remarkably, the health of the college-educated inner city men at 70 was as good as that of the Harvard men at 70,” according to “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Study of Adult Development,” a book by George Vaillant, the lead author of the study for over three decades.

“This was in spite of the fact that their childhood social class, their tested IQ, their income, and the prestige of their colleges and jobs were markedly inferior to those of the Harvard men. Parity of education alone was enough to produce parity in physical health,” Vaillant wrote.

He found that having a happy childhood is important, as well.

“For both inner city men and the Harvard men the best predictor of a high income was not their parents’ social class but whether their mother had made them feel loved,” according to Vaillant. “Perhaps the best summary statement is, What goes right in childhood predicts the future far better than what goes wrong.”

Relationships, and the emotional intelligence to deal with others, showed to be other big predictors of happiness later in life.

“The lives of all three cohorts repeatedly demonstrated that it was social aptitude — sometimes called emotional intelligence — not intellectual brilliance or parental social class that leads to a well-adapted old age,” Vaillant wrote.

The final two elements predicting a long and happy life involve coping skills, and generativity.

Those in the study who used “maladaptive coping” – blaming others, being passive-aggressive, living in denial or fantasy – did not fare as well as those who used “mature methods” like altruism, sublimation, suppression and humor, Business Insider reports.

Generativity – giving back through service as a consultant, mentor, coach or other youth leader – also benefitted participants later in life.

“In all three study cohorts mastery of Generativity tripled the chances that the decade of the 70s would for these men and women be a time of joy and not of despair,” Vaillant wrote.

He summarized the overarching message from the study – the longest prospective study of its kind in the world – with a single sentence: “Whether we live to a vigorous old age lies not so much in our stars or our genes as in ourselves.”

The findings underscore the notion that personal character is perhaps the most significant determining factor for quality and longevity on earth, a realization that some schools are taking to heart.

Daniel Scoggin explained to CultureFeed why character development is critical to the Great Hearts charter school network he founded in Arizona and Texas:

As the ancient Athenian statesman Pericles described the virtues of a free democracy and its citizens as, “. . . knowing the secret of happiness to be freedom, and the secret of freedom a brave heart.”

In the spirit of Pericles we named our public charter organization Great Hearts. It is a reminder to us of our heritage of freedom. But it also is a reminder to us of what we want our students to have, and who we want our students to be, as we inspire our students to fulfill their calling and prepare for the adventure ahead.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham offers a teacher handbook to help educators develop students’ character and improve their outlook on life. The handbook provides activities that encourage youngsters to “cultivate a sense of appreciation for the network of people from whom they receive benefits,” and “to reflect on the meaning of gratitude” outlined in an associated workbook.

Kind is the new cool in U.S. schools

In schools across America, it’s becoming cool to be kind.

The encouraging trend is playing out in a lot of ways, according to The 74 Million, and it’s inspiring everyone from a band of bikers to famous rappers and creative teachers to get involved.

In late August, dozens of Chicago-area bikers set the tone when they learned of middle school student Megan Kuntz, who was terrified to face bullies who tormented her at school last year. The massive biker entourage escorted the girl to her first day of class to send a message that they have her back.

“The next thing you know, I’ve got a whole family back here that’s supporting my daughter,” Jill Kuntz, Megan’s mom, told WLS. “She’s on cloud nine today going to school for the first time.”

Atlanta rapper T.I. also intervened in the case of a University High School sophomore who was denied school lunch over a 15-cent lunch debt. T.I. lashed out at the school and cafeteria worker who confiscated the girl’s lunch, then put $1,000 in her food account to ensure she’d never have to hungry again, WKYC reports.

T.I.’s generosity inspired others to launch a GoFundMe campaign to settle other students’ delinquent lunch accounts, as well.

Meanwhile, in Memphis, Tennessee, four students at Hernando Middle School created their own campaign of kindness by coming to school each day at 6:30 a.m. to personally greet each of their classmates as they came into the building.

“Kindness is like butter. The earth is toast,” seventh-grader Cody Eaton told Local Memphis. “You have to spread it around.”

“One time every morning someone has said, ‘Hey, why are you doing this?’” eighth-grader Bethany Wilder said. “And I think it’s nice for other people to know that you don’t have to have a reason to be kind. You just have to do it and make someone’s day.”

In Charlotte, North Carolina, teacher Justin Parmenter worked to lift his students’ spirits in a different way, through a heartfelt message from their parents. Suring the Waddell Language Academy’s open house, he asked parents to pen inspiring notes to their children he can hand out when they’re having a rough day.

Parmenter posted some of the loving notes to social media, where many parents and educators commended his efforts to start the school year off on the right foot.

“Writing an encouraging note is not only about letting someone understand they’re appreciated, but making yourself think about what it is that you appreciate,” the Charlotte Observer noted. “That’s a good assignment for the first day of school, and for lots of others.”

The emerging culture of kindness in many schools is a product of school and community leaders, teachers, parents and others who have worked diligently to raise awareness about bullying and other issues and to change the dynamic by setting a positive example, and creating habits and traditions rooted in kindness.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted exactly why that’s important in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a variety of American high schools.

“What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person,” Hunter wrote. “But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.”

The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, publishes free resources for educators to “supplement, complement and support positive behavior goals.”

The association also provides K-12 lesson plans to promote kindness in the classroom.

WI student’s simple act of kindness pays off for cancer-fighting nonprofit

Wisconsin’s Waylon Klitzman was unhappy to learn his favorite teacher at Evansville High School was leaving the profession to dedicate her time to Beat Nb, a nonprofit working to cure neuroblastoma.

The teacher, Kim Katzenmeyer, announced the decision this spring after her niece was diagnosed with the disease just days before her fourth birthday.

Initially, Klitzman offered “Miss K” all the money he had – $52 – to change her mind and remain in the classroom. But when that didn’t work he concocted another plan to raise money for Beat Nb that ultimately took in more than $10,000 for the cause in just one hour.

The Washington Post reports:

The day after Katzenmeyer announced her departure, Klitzman marched in and laid $52 in cash in her hands. It was all he had left from his purchase of two pigs earlier that spring. Klitzman had bought the pigs as part of his involvement with the Evansville chapter of 4-H, a national youth organization that teaches leadership in part through agricultural work.

He originally planned to sell the pigs for meat — and for a profit — at the county fair in July.

Klitzman hoped his money, offered as a donation to Beat Nb, would be enough to induce Katzenmeyer to stay. She was touched, but it didn’t change her mind.

Klitzman, though, wasn’t done. He lost a teacher, but he found a cause.

He also had a plan: sell Roo – the 265-pound pig he spent months raising for the fair – and donate the proceeds to Beat Nb. He reached out to several potential buyers to explain the situation in hopes of driving up the price from the typical $3 to $5 per pound, but the response was not exactly what he expected.

“When the bidding kicked off, the price jumped to $11 – but then one of the bidders, Dan Drozdowicz, had an idea and struck a deal with his competition,” the Good News Network reports. “He won the bidding on the pig – then he donated it back to be auctioned again. The second bidder bought it for $10 a pound – then he gave it back, too.

“Finally, a third competitor, Dave Moll, was free to buy – then, he, too, unexpectedly donated the pig back – for a third time,” according to the site.

“I had … no intention of spending that much money or giving the pig back,” said Moll, who owns the construction company that employs Klitzman’s father. “But that’s what the people ahead of me did, and I felt like it was the right thing to do, so I did.”

Roo was bought a fourth time by a pork producer for $5.50 per pound, bringing in a total raised for Beat Nb to $10,070.

“I did not see that happening,” Klitzman told the Post. “Usually, they just sell it once! My dream got bigger and bigger every time they said, ‘Give it back.’”

Miss K, of course, was more than grateful for his efforts.

“I am bursting, my heart is bursting with pride for him,” she said. “He doesn’t know the impact that he is having … Someday he will.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted the importance of practicing kindness to develop strong character in his book “The Death of Character.”

“It is through experience that students participate in moral community and practice moral action,” Hunter wrote. “Experience is always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom.”

The website offers a variety of ways both kids and adults can practice kindness in their everyday lives, from “Ideas for your first act,” to “Summer kind act ideas” and ways to “Carry out a random act of kindness.”

The site also offers ideas for “Digital acts of kindness” to help “cultivate a kinder world online.”



Students ditch digital devices to focus on conservation, communication, and community

Seventh-graders in Reedsburg, Wisconsin are learning what it’s like to leave technology behind to shift focus to nature, community, communication and socialization.

Throughout the last school year, students from Webb Middle School, St. Peter’s Lutheran School and Sacred Heart School took part in youth conservation days hosted by the Sauk County Conservation, Planning and Zoning Department. The events were held at Devils Lake State Park, as well as River Valley and Sauk Prairie parks, as part of a broader effort involving other districts in the county, the Reedsburg Times-Press reports.

Students spent roughly 25-minutes at nine different stations, where they listened to seminars and played games pertaining to a wide range of conservation topics, from archery to local food chains.

“I know the kids really look forward to it every year so we are excited to be able to host it and put it together for them,” said Melisa Keenan, Sauk County conservationist.

“I hope they realized getting outside and away from electronic devices is a lot of fun and they can learn a lot just by being out in the natural environment,” she said. “I hope they learn a little bit from each session, something they can pass on.”

Reedsburg Future Farmers of America advisor and Agriculture teacher Todd Cherney said the intent of the youth days is to educate students about the outdoors and compel them to protect the environment for future generations.

“It’s hoping that everybody gathers some information and some awareness of our resources and what we have to do to protect them,” he said. “What they have today they sure want their kids and their grand kids to have the same opportunities.”

The appreciation for the natural world grows naturally out of the community conversation and socialization at the events, without the help of digital devices.

It’s part of what researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture describe as the “attitudes, behaviors, and strategies” that strongly influence character education.

In The Content of Their Character an analysis of character education work in a wide variety of schools, Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote that those factors “underpin success in school and at work – capabilities such as self-motivation, perseverance, and self-control, but also empathy, truthfulness, and character more broadly.”

As most schools focus heavily on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Davison points out that it’s equally important to help students develop soft skills and higher virtues that often determine successful outcomes for people.

“STEM skills are vital to the world in which we live today,” Davison wrote, “but technology alone, as Steve Jobs famously insisted, is not enough.”

The Jubilee Center for Character and Virtues offers a variety of lessons and other materials for educators looking to help students develop soft skills.

One lesson on The Virtue of Truthfulness for example, prompts students to assess their own truthfulness, and to consider why this virtue is important.

“Truthful people grow in virtue much more quickly than for those who struggle to be truthful about who they really are,” according to the lesson. “It is also worth thinking through what human relationships would look like were they to be based on us representing ourselves in a false light: hypocrisy, deceit, lying and the breaking of promises would dissolve social bonds.”