On Tuesday, June 3 the Milford High School (MHS) held an assembly to celebrate the Students for a Million Acts of Kindness (SMAK) campaign. Encouraging random acts of kindness throughout the entire Milford School District, students were able to record over 1 million acts over the 2013-2014 school year. In an effort to bring students closer together and focus on positive attitudes, the SMAK program was a success at demonstrating to students that they can change the cultural climate of an entire school district.
At the beginning of the 2013 school year Su Chafin, psychotherapist at Milford High School (MSD) Wellness Center, assisted students in creating the Students for a Million Acts of Kindness (SMAK) campaign. An effort that started as a way to proactively prevent bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month, the concept quickly grew into a movement at MHS as students took the initiative to make it a priority during the school day. Chafin believes that this program has changed the way in which teachers and students affect their surroundings by proactive encouragement.
“As a counselor I see the atmosphere that kids deal with every day as teenagers, and a lot of it can be negative. As professionals we are a lot of times still simply reacting to the negative things that they do,” said Chafin. “The SMAK program helped us to focus on what they did well and bring students together.”
The program really started to pick up after a conversation that Ms. Chafin had with several students at MHS about equality and compassion. During that listening session, Chafin dared a group of students that if they could perform a million acts of kindness she would shave her head. Shortly following, other staff members across the Milford School District joined the dare with even crazier antics, including spending the night on the school’s rooftops and kissing livestock. As a reward for reaching their goal, students witnessed Chafin cutting her hair off on Tuesday during an assembly at Milford High School. Later in the week, students at Lulu Ross Elementary witnessed counselor Jay Lingo and several other teachers climb to the school’s roof where they spent the night on Thursday. Students from Morris Early Childhood Center watched as Vice Principal John Lobiando kissed a pig on Friday to celebrate accomplishments from the SMAK program. Across the school district, 170 students were named official SMAK ambassadors, encouraging acts of kindness.
“SMAK has had an effect on school climate and has brought out the positives as we have been able to unite to help do good works in each school,” commented Chafin. “I know it will have a ripple effect for years to come. I have already seen an overall increase in students’ positivity and desire to be leaders.”
SMAK advisors Ms. Chafin and Ms. Morgan have already received calls and letters from students asking them to continue the program next year. They have also been contacted by several universities interested in taking a closer look at the program next year for research purposes as it continues. Chafin hopes that over time the positive ripple effect that the SMAK program had on the Milford schools will expand its influence to the community at large.
“We would like to change the climate so that the normal becomes students being nice to each other and discouraging others that are being negative,” stated Chafin. “It can make us more aware of being nice and remind us to be nice as often as we can.”