Portage elementary school student organizes initiative to spread kindness

Portage elementary school student organizes initiative to spread kindness
By: Beth Ireland Last Updated: August 6, 2019

On a quiet day in December, Sophia Alaniz sat in Jennifer Satter’s 3rd grade classroom at Crisman Elementary School reading the Scholastic News Kindness Issue. This issue, full of stories from students around the nation who had been taking action in their communities, performing acts of kindness and spreading smiles, inspired Sophia. As Satter came by to collect the magazine, Sophia declared she wanted to do something to help others. Satter responded, “Ok, so do it.”

“Looking back now, it’s so crazy to think that a simple statement like that turned into so much, and something so meaningful,” Satter said.

Sophia took the stories from Scholastic News and Satter’s call to action to heart and spent her winter break creating a list of ways to help others within her own community. She finally landed on the idea of packing duffel bags with all types of goodies and donating them to children living in foster care. Satter added the idea of packing Birthday Boxes for the children, filled with streamers, balloons, signs, and other fun items that could be used to celebrate birthdays.

“I felt for the foster kids, and I wanted to do something kind for others,” Sophia said.

With the help and support of Mom (Amanda) and Ms. Satter, Sophia presented her idea to the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). The PTO was impressed and Sophia was given a budget to purchase 30 duffel bags. The PTO even agreed to donate half the funds needed for the bags and birthday boxes. Now, all Sophia needed to do was raise the remaining funds. Sophia’s Kindness Club was officially ready to go. 

Sophia created posters, handed out fliers, and arrived to school early to recruit fellow classmates to take part in her kindness club. She gathered about 30 students, whose families each “sponsored” a duffel bag and paid the remaining cost. 

“It was wonderful to see the school community come together. The mothers of the PTO were so welcoming to the idea of helping the kids,” Amanda said.

In a one-day event, the students and families gathered together to pack and decorate the bags and boxes. All of them contained encouraging notes from the students and their families.

 “They wrote a lot of nice things to them,” Sophia said. “I remember one 1st grader wrote, ‘You’re special’ on her note.”

Once the bags and boxes were all packed up, Sophia, her mother, and Satter delivered them to The Villages Foster Care offices. Sitting down with some of the employees, Sophia learned just how much of an impact those bags and boxes would make.

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“They were so grateful,” Sophia said. “I felt happy and grateful that I did that because I like helping out kids in need.”

“They explained what their mission is and how much Sophia has helped. There were definitely some tears at this point,” Satter said. “They were all so thankful and I know their kind words really helped Sophia understand how much her event helped.”

Watching a child do good works is encouraging and gives the world excitement for the future. For parents like Sophia’s and teachers like Satter, allowing a child to take charge and do something good encourages others to do the same.

“I think that, as a parent, to see them taking actions that are selfless gives you peace that they are going to do good things in the world,” Amanda said. “Sophia is going to make a difference in the world.”

“Sophia put so much heart and dedication into her event that I can’t even find the right words to express how proud of her I am,” Satter said.

The kindness that Sophia shared with her own community spread all the way to New York and into the offices of Scholastic News. Satter emailed Scholastic with a note from Sophia, sharing how the Kindness Issue had inspired her and helped her to take initiative within her own community. For the writers and editors at Scholastic News, hearing about the impact their issue had on her was very meaningful. 

“We were so excited and inspired ourselves,” said Audra Wallace, Editorial Director at Scholastic News.  “This is exactly what we want to happen when we do these issues. We love how our heart-warming stories present an opportunity for other kids to be inspired and empowered, and how they’re connecting with our magazine in a meaningful and memorable  way. We love seeing how Sophia turned our words into action.”

Scholastic works hard to share knowledge and stories with students that will inspire them to take action in their own communities, right now and in the future. Sophia’s Kindness Club is just one fruition of this mission.

“Our mission is to encourage students nationwide to build their knowledge, expand their world, and unlock new learning opportunities. We want them to look at their communities and be aware, inspired, and empowered to take action and make a difference,” Wallace said. “They’re going to be leading their communities in a few years and they need to know what’s going on in them and the ways that they can make a positive impact on others.”

For Sophia, this is just the beginning. She already has plans to continue spreading kindness in her community and is hoping to help local animal shelters this upcoming school year. Whatever she decides to do, she knows she’ll have the support of her fellow students. 

“My favorite thing about the club was that the other kids took it so seriously,” said Sophia.

Sohpia thanks her teacher, Ms. Satter, her principal, Mr. Hufford, the PTO, and her fellow students for believing in her and helping her accomplish this great task. The community thanks you, Sophia, for your compassion for others and for being brave enough to act on it. We look forward to hearing more about Sophia and her Kindness Club in the future.