A national organization whose mission is to "inspire measurable acts of kindness" has named Sherwood's St. Francis Catholic School the Kindest School (K-8) In the United States.
That's after the students performed 6,106 total acts of kindness (5,000 of them in 15 days alone) since Dec. 2, earning them the top spot by Think Kindness, a Nevada-based non-profit whose mission is to inspire measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities around the world.
The accolade means St. Francis students beat out 88 other kindergarten through eighth-grade schools, composed of 68,290 students, throughout the nation. In addition, the 134-student school was one of the smallest schools that achieved its kindness goal by giving out compliments, performing chores and helping other students with each good-deed doer recording his or her acts in a personal journal.
On May 31, St. Francis' Father James Herrera addressed the student body, asking them if they thought they deserved to be called the kindest school in the country? He then answered his own question.
"I think so," said Herrera, "and so do a lot of other people."
He then added, "You won."
The students gasped and clapped excitedly.
For St. Francis, the kindness challenge began on Dec. 2 with school assemblies featuring renowned motivational speaker Brian Williams, who is the founder and CEO of Think Kindness. His speech motivated the students to discover the power of kindness and the differences that each could make every single day.
"We brought Brian to St. Francis because his message aligns with who we are," said John Feleciano, parent and a member of the St. Francis School Advisory Council. "We have an exceptional community and knew his positive energy would be amplified by our students, school and parents."
The students responded to Williams' message, and learned first-hand the benefits of being kind.
Seventh-grader Victoria Pitt said she has seen a difference at school.
"Everybody here is nicer and closer and we're better as a school," said Pitt. "And I've seen a bunch of people going out and sharing that with other people."
Fifth-grader Jada Utberg added that she feels good being kind and enjoys people's reactions.
"It makes you just want to keep going," she said.
Principal Kimberly Fadden said she continues to witness the ongoing kindness of the students to this day.
In particular, second-graders recently requested permission to host an end-of-the year barbecue, an event that raised more than $100 for cancer research.
In addition, during a trip to Ashland, eighth-grade students chose to share their extra food with the homeless instead of eating it themselves and St. Francis fourth-grade students are researching ways to help children who are in the hospital.
"All these kind acts were generated by the students," said Fadden. "I am so proud of them."