It was the beginning of the school year, and Principal Denise Kelly was feeling frustrated. Despite hard work and positive efforts by her staff, her school – Sterling Elementary in Sterling, Alaska – was experiencing high levels of behavioral issues. Principal Kelly had more students in her office and had suspended more kids by October than in the entire previous school year. She wanted to break the negative cycle!
Mrs. Kelly reached out to the 21 Day Kindness Challenge with the hopes that the program would reignite her staff to feel kindness in themselves and to share the kindness with their students. She is extremely happy with the results.
“I saw changes in our students; I saw changes in our staff. When we talk about students and their difficult behaviors, we talk about how to lead them back to kindness with kindness! The focus on kindness has been infectious!”
Mrs. Kelly’s co-kindness coach is Katy McKinley. She was inspired to help with the Kindness Challenge because she has been teaching Growth Mindset in her classroom, and felt that the 21 Day Kindness Challenge is an excellent complement to the Growth Mindset. She was very excited about bringing additional positive change to their school.
Mrs. McKinley was very pleased with the impact the 21 Day Kindness Challenge has had on her classroom and Sterling Elementary. She says other teachers agreed that the 21 Day Kindness Challenge was much needed and served a necessary purpose in their classrooms.
“It is amazing how contagious kindness can be,” she said. “Students, staff, and community have been affected by our challenge!”
Mrs. Kelly concurred. “Our (kindness) chain was 931 feet and it equated to 6,571 acts of kindness!” she said. “But beyond that, we had a class who all on their own conducted their own kindness missions across the school and the world. We had a parent contact us and ask us to spread cheer with handwritten cards to the children at the hospital over Christmas to whom they provide gifts. We had numerous parents comment at how contagious our kindness challenge was!”
Sterling’s office referrals have already seen a decrease by nearly 70% since they held their 21 Day Kindness Challenge, said Mrs. Kelly.
“Students are helping each other more and are being more respectful to the adults.”
Mrs. Kelly says the best part about the 21 Day Kindness Challenge at Sterling Elementary School was watching students do kind things, tell her about the kind things they did and seeing them ask to help others “just because.” Mrs. McKinley agreed, saying that she also loved sharing the daily videos that are provided as part of the program and planning the kick off and celebration Kindness Challenge assemblies for the school, especially because they included lots of students and community members.
Sterling Elementary School really got into the spirit of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge with their kick off and celebration assemblies. They invited many guests to attend and participate. A former Sterling principal, a school board representative, their school district’s communications specialist, a community volunteer and their State Senator all made guest speeches! Their district superintendent and a former Sterling Elementary secretary helped the students celebrate at the end of their Kindness Challenge.
One of Mrs. Kelly’s favorite parts of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge was dressing up as the Kindness Queen, a role she took on during the kick-off assembly.
“For our second week, I decided that I should ensure that the students were still thinking about kindness after the weekend. So I put on my Kindness Queen costume – which is not necessarily 'Winter in Alaska' appropriate – and I went to bus duty, greeting all of the students and parents with a reminder to be kind!”
Mrs. Kelly says that anyone can and should do the 21 Day Kindness Challenge. “Any school can do it!” she says. “Focusing on kindness is easy! It is well worth the time and the energy.”
One of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge team’s favorite stories about Sterling Elementary was getting an email from an enthusiastic kindness coach from another school in California.
“I just heard the 21 Day Kindness Challenge on the Bobby Bones show!” she emailed to let us know. Sterling Elementary had received a super fun shout-out from the morning show hosts.
Listen to the shout-out on the Bobby Bones show here. The Sterling clip starts at 7:38.
The 21 Day Kindness Challenge team applauds Mrs. Kelly and Mrs. McKinley for their dedication, creativity, passion, and enthusiasm for creating a kinder, more inclusive school climate. To find out how you can make a difference on your school campus, visit our website!
Note From the Founder
Hello. I am the founder of the 21 Day Kindness Challenge Program.