Acts of kindness are all around us. People help the elderly, hold the door for a student or teacher whose arms are full, or even volunteer at a animal shelter, for example. But many students rush through their day, not noticing acts of kindness or recognizing how an act of kindness on their part could make a huge difference in another person’s day.
HumanKIND Day is a day set aside for participating students to learn about such kindnesses and to appreciate the differences and similarities among the large student population at Fairmont. This year, HumanKIND Day took place on Nov. 21.
Marie Wehner, a science interventionist and the Growing Peace adviser at Fairmont High School, is in charge of HumanKIND Day and puts it all together, along with the help of Growing Peace and a several teachers.
“The Growing Peace students were instrumental in getting the organizational and logistical tasks accomplished,” Wehner said. “They worked after school into the evening with me every day that week.”
Wehner explained the premise of HumanKIND Day.
“HumanKIND Day is a day where students come together to discuss issues that they feel are important to having a quality environment here,” Wehner said. “People learn to acknowledge differences but pay more attention to how we’re all alike.”
Wehner explained how people can sometimes misunderstand the behaviors or appearance of other people.
“Some of our students come dressed in a particular way every day. Well, maybe that’s just a goofy expression of themselves, or maybe they’re really trying to tell us something, and we don’t quite hear the message,” she said. “So I think it’s important for the unity in the building that students understand that people have reasons for the way they behave, the way they look or the way they treat others on a certain day.”
Wehner says all kinds of students sign up for the annual event.
“Most of the students genuinely care about being comfortable in their environment, and making sure that other people are comfortable in their environment,” she said. “But there’s always a few students who go just because it’s a day off of going to class.”
OK, I’ll be honest: I only attended HumanKIND Day this year because my Flyer editors assigned me to do so. But I got so much out of the program, I know I’ll be back in future years. Here’s my experience:
At the beginning of the day, we had an activity that seemed designed to ease us into our day and get us comfortable talking to each other. We passed around beach balls that had questions written on them. We had to catch the ball with one hand, and whatever question our thumb landed on, we had to answer to our group. They were pretty easy questions, such as what superpower we might want to have and what our favorite color is.
The next session I went to was about human trafficking. The activity was led by seniors Sarah Kane, Holly Mercs and others. They told us how people might start to be trafficked and what signs to look for. They even told us a story of someone at Fairmont who had been trafficked. I thought all of this was very serious and very bad.
Then they had us do an activity that really got my attention. We got on iPads and computers and went to a website where we entered information about what we own, what we eat, what we wear, and what jewelry we have. In the end, it showed how many slaves were making those items.
After such an intense session, it was time to decompress, so we went to the West Gym to do some yoga. The yoga was a little challenging, fun to do, funny to watch, and also very relaxing. We did a few poses and laid on the ground to just breathe. I think it was a very good session to have.
My group then went to a anti-racism session. It was a good session that showed us things that some of us might not have known. We learned that even though people may not show it, the racist jokes that people make affect others. No matter what, racism is not a laughing matter.
At another session, members of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club talked about transgender people. They had actually interviewed students and staff members asking if they knew what “transgender” meant. Everyone had a different opinion in the interview; no one idea was alike. Indeed, “transgender” is a somewhat broad term. According to the American Psychological Association, “transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”
In addition to providing some statistics about transgenders and noting some famous people who are transgender, the GSA also had two transgender students come and talk. They were two separate stories, though. One has a family who has accepted the fact that their child is transgender, but the other student’s family doesn’t accept it. They were both very powerful stories.
Then we went to a session about sexting. They showed us a video about a girl sending a guy a picture of herself in her new shirt. The guy shows his friend the picture, and his friend takes a picture of the picture. The friend then sends the picture to his friends, and they share it with their friends, and so on. Eventually, the picture goes up on Facebook, where anyone can see it. The girl who had sent the picture then gets text messages from people she doesn’t know. I feel the video was based on an experience that actually happened. It was a very moving activity that all of us learned something from.
Next came lunch, which was nice. It was a fun time for everyone to interact with each other. People talked about activities they’d been to and what they thought about them.
After lunch, I went to a session about religious tolerance. They gave us a paper and asked us to write down what we knew about a few religions. They showed us pictures of people of those various religions and wanted us to say what we thought of them. They gave us facts about the religions, and showed us symbols that stood for the different religions. This was a very interesting activity, and I learned things that I didn’t know about those religious.
Next we went to a session that was different than the rest. It was an anger session. We talked about what makes us angry and how it affects us. We also had to write what makes us angry and how we deal with it on a Post-it note. It was a small session that didn’t have a lot to teach, but it was a good session.
The last session my group went to was about International Mindedness/Cultural Competency. We had to answer a few questions about general topics. But the questions came with a twist: they involved the whole world rather than just the United States. They showed us facts about populations, religions and much more. This was an amazing session because it revealed that what we think is going on in the world isn’t always correct.
The day ended with a large-group activity at Trent Arena called Over the Line. Wehner had warned that the session can become very emotional. “It’s a very visual acknowledgement of how many stresses that people around us are under that we’re not aware of,” she said.
An imaginary “line” was made between two teachers, who asked students a variety of questions, ranging from “Have you ever gone hungry?” to “Have you had to deal with alcoholism in your family?’ Students were asked to step over the line if they answered “Yes.”
This was an activity that I believe that every teen at Fairmont should experience. I think it would change the way people act toward one another and that people would be nicer outside of school, too.
HumanKIND Day was an event that was very powerful, and inspiring. I know I’ll apply to attend next year and the year after that. I learned a lot from HumanKIND Day, and those things will stay with me throughout my entire time at high school as well as the rest of my life. It was a touching thing to go to, and I think that everyone would be able to learn something from it.