Cruz Cares winner: 21 Day Kindness Challenge with 24 schools and 175,000 acts of kindness
By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ >> The leaders of a venture to stop bullying, which in two years has generated 175,000 acts of kindness and reached 24 schools including some in Los Angeles and Baltimore, want to impact more schools and more students.
Their 21 Day Kindness Challenge won top honors from the judges in the 2016 Cruz Cares social entrepreneur contest, $2,000 and a package of business services.
Justina Bryant, 39, of Aptos, started an after-school kindness club at her child’s school, Rio del Mar Elementary after witnessing a taunting incident there. Wanting to reach all the students, she challenged the school to a 21 Day Kindness Challenge, asking students, faculty and staff to perform five acts of kindness daily. Bryant, who had worked as a teacher and in marketing, understood the time constraints in the classroom so she kept the explanation simple.
“It literally takes five minutes,” she said.
Yet the effort paid dividends. Students were motivated to be helpful and wrote down positive acts they saw. After a Sentinel reporter wrote about the kindness challenge, American Profile magazine wrote about it, prompting 542 inquiries.
Bryant teamed up with fellow parent Christy Tall, 44, who has experience in fundraising and marketing, to create a full-fledged program that is sold on their website, along with blue T-shirts, buttons and wristbands saying “Be Kind.”
“It’s designed to be plug-and-play,” said Tall.
The two looked into nonprofit status before opting to be a for-profit venture.
The basic cost for an average size elementary school of 650 students and 50 staff is $789. Options for smaller and larger schools are available, as are middle school options. A classroom option costing $100 was developed after teachers requested it, and a high school option is being developed with an emphasis on social media, based on Aptos High School’s experience.
To help schools launch the kindness challenge, there is an online training portal that includes email updates and customer support.
Though the 21 Day Kindness Challenge has reached schools in Silicon Valley such as Atherton High, and some as far as Utah, Ohio and Maryland, Bryant and Tall are proud to see all the schools in Aptos involved.
The kindness challenge is underway at Rio del Mar Elementary; Aptos Junior High started Monday. Bradley Elementary will start May 6. Valencia Elementary completed its challenge already and Mar Vista Elementary will do it in the fall.
Janneke Lang, founder of The Inspiring Enterprise and the Cruz Cares contest, considered the 2016 competition “a huge success,” bringing 220-plus people to the Del Mar Theatre Wednesday night and topping her $10,000 fundraising goal. She raised $16,000.
The top prizes for startups solving social or environmental problems all went to education ventures.
Santa Cruz Hive focusing on young adults exiting foster care got second place and Levered Learning producing online curriculum took third place.
Gail McNulty, 44, of Santa Cruz Hive, is tapping her experience in the Bronx as rookie teacher of ninth graders ranging in age from 13 to 21. The 21-year-old, a graffiti artist, respected her once he learned she had worked as an art director. Her goal, similar to Thread in Baltimore, is to connect struggling young people, one at a time, with a cluster of caring volunteers, such as college students, a community elder and a professional with expertise in the field the young person is passionate about. She expects all participants to benefit.
“You could meet that random person that might open that next door for you,” she said.
2016 CRUZ CARES WINNERS
1st: 21 Day Kindness Challenge
Founder: Justina Bryant
Prize: $2,000, business services
2nd: Santa Cruz HIVE
Founder: Gail McNulty
Prize: $1,500, business services
3rd: Levered Learning
Founder: Mitchell Slater
Prize: $1,000, business services
Footprint Inn: Founder Alicea Cock-Esteb, firstname.lastname@example.org
Assure Technologies: Founder Kara Kytle, email@example.com
Soliculture: Engineeering director Melissa Osborn, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.