Students turn to positivity and small acts of kindness to bring their school closer together.
By Amy Van Es
Twelve students, 900 paper hearts and big change.
For the students at Carmel High School in California, a lot of heart is exactly what it took to make their first WE Schools campaign come to life.
“WE are Love is one of the first projects we took on,” begins Leigh Cambra, a health teacher and WE Schools leader. An action campaign centered on sharing positivity and lifting others, it was a simple way for them to get their feet wet with students creating handmade cards, marked with notes of compassion for friends, family and neighbors.
“We’re a small school and this campaign didn’t cost us much money, so we [knew] it was something we could handle,” says Leigh. All it took was $11.99 worth of colored paper—“pink, red and purple to represent love!”—from a local office supplies store and a few pairs of borrowed scissors.
The students (then just a group of 12) were eager to put their own spin on the campaign. In the end, they would print and cut out 900 heart-shaped pieces of paper—one for every student in the school—and write a personal note to each. “We met up the night before Valentine’s Day and put them all over the school,” recalls the educator. “So when [students] showed up [the next morning] there were hearts all over the place, and the kids all knew one belonged to them!”
Fun as this all sounds, it wasn’t an easy task getting this campaign off the ground. In fact, it took the group more than a month of meetings just to cut all the hearts!
“It didn’t cost anything, but it gave us such value,” she recalls. “You never know what kind of difference you can make in someone’s day. It’s nice for the kids in the group to give back and do something for everyone else, but it’s also nice for the rest of the students.”
The impact Carmel’s WE club has been able to affect in the school is wonderful, with kids sticking their WE are Love notes on binders and lockers as a reminder that they’re appreciated. As Leigh is quick to point out, though, it’s the students who may not speak out about the campaign that were likely touched the most. “You’ll never know how much it affected them,” she says warmly. “Some kids will never share their notes with others, but it really makes them feel included in the school community.”
Working with teens, the educator is aware of how cliques can divide a school and is grateful to have found a way to bring all her students together. “They’re all so segregated. The clubs they’re in, the classes they take, the friends they hang out with,” she says. “It’s great to have one combined experience and show we care for each other even if we don’t know them. We’re all here together.”
Today, Carmel’s WE club boasts 60 members. “We’re the biggest club on campus now,” exclaims Leigh. Fully grown and ready to take on more campaigns, the club doesn’t plan on leaving behind its first success as change-makers. It would disappoint the student body, after all; as the educator laughs, people will be looking forward to their hearts “every year now.”