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  • Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
    Superintendent of Schools
    Lancaster Central School District
    177 Central Avenue
    Lancaster, NY 14086
    District Clerk/Secretary:
    Sandra Janik
  • Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...

    Each of the last seven years the LCSD has held its annual Day of Kindness (DoK).

    As the day approached, I began to ponder the imprint this event has left on our students. Imagine a kindergartner being exposed to events, service projects, activities (in the classroom, at home, and in the community) for seven consecutive years. Put another way, what has the impact been on those students who were among the first to celebrate our DoK in 2014?

    Richard Davidson, Ph.D., a Harvard psychologist and neuroscientist said one of the best ways to cultivate happiness for oneself is to be kind toward others. “It turns out that the research actually supports that.”

    Similar to Lancaster’s kindness initiatives, Dr. Davidson cites research working with four and five years olds to teach them simple skills of mindfulness and kindness early in life, “because it’s our conjecture that if they’re taught these skills at that point, the possibility that they will really be very enduring is much greater.”

    Como Park Elementary Principal, Molly Marcinelli notes, “The Day of Kindness has had a very positive impact on our students. Nevertheless, the things we do all year have the most influence. We conduct several service projects a year with school-wide assemblies to introduce the projects so that our students understand what they are doing and why. We are proud to be a State and National School of Character. We embed good character into everything we do.”

    Hillview Elementary is trying something new, participating in “The Great Kindness Challenge,” a national program. Students completed a "Kind Acts" checklist at home. Those who turned in the completed checklists were recognized with kindness pencils. Hillview can now be recognized as a Kindness Certified School.

    Court Street Elementary was proud to welcome Julia Harris back for a DoK assembly. Julia suffered a traumatic brain injury in fourth grade. After being hospitalized for seven months, she was given a hero’s welcome back to Court Street and carried on with her education. At the age of 27, Julia has gone on to become a motivational speaker, with an accompanying website called, License2Smile.com. “We can make the world a better place for ourselves and others if we can all learn to smile more.”

    Districtwide in our second year we launched the Family Fun Night at the Russell J. Salvatore Field House. Families are treated to pizza and beverages, desserts provided by our Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, and a host of activities provided by our Leadership Academy and Student Union, students who would have been at William Street School when we held our first DoK.

    Today, many of those same students are responsible for planning the activities that make up not only the evening event, but also to help make DoK activities at the other schools a success.

    Seniors shared memories of looking up to the leadership students who visited them and performed skits and other mentoring activities when they were younger and how it inspired them to want to pursue a leadership role, not only at LHS, but also in their college studies.

    Coming full circle, all of our schools have created leadership teams, from elementary onward. Leadership and service activities are held at every school, reaching out from classroom to community.

    Jake Lis, a senior in the Leadership Academy remarked about the impact the DoK had on him, recalling positive messages being posted on lockers at WSS (this year shaped like butterflies). “I kept all of mine because I knew if I was ever having a bad day I would just look at it and it would make me feel positive and I want to do that for other people,” Jake said. “I just think it’s a really nice gesture and it really helped me a lot.”

    The two young ladies responsible for making 1400 butterfly cutouts for WSS lockers aren’t prepared to stop there. They have planned random acts of kindness for each school to complete their project.

    It is nearly impossible to quantify all of the traditions that have grown out of our DoK, but a few that come to mind are Band Against Bullying, now in its eighth year, a friendly competition held among local schools at UB. More recently, a pop-up clothing shop called “Legendary Looks” has emerged. Gently used clothing has been donated and is part of an inclusive ‘store’ for all students…some to gain work skills, others volunteer hours. The beauty of Legendary Looks is that students don’t pay a penny for anything they shop for. Students from every background have an opportunity to shop, whether they just need to freshen up their wardrobe, or if there is a financial need; no stigma attached.

    In all likelihood, I could fill this entire page with all of the kind deeds and events throughout the years. There is no doubt in my mind there has been a cultural shift as a result, in sustaining kindness—spreading it throughout the community—students taking that energy with them into the next phase of their lives—and passing it down to children of their own. The motto we began with was “Kindness is Contagious, Help Us Spread It.” Looking back, I feel we’ve lived up to that motto. See more DoK coverage on Twitter @LancasterCSD.


    Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.