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Standing Up for Kindness

Out of anguish, a seed grows to produce beauty

Braver, Kinder Calvert members Shontera Jones, Joe Gionfriddo, Niki Elliott, Cara Mathers, Katie Wilding, Miranda Shaw, Andrea Kelson and Austin Folkman with the We are the Change banner, on which students signed their handprint and pledged to be braver, kinder and to oppose bullying.

In times of trial, the brave step forward.
    Unrest caught hold at Calvert High School a year ago. It divided students into Us and Them.
    Into this turmoil stepped a handful of the brave.
    At a June assembly to bring the students together, senior E.J. LaGoy spoke up. “Words hurt,” she said. “Stop it! Just stop it!”
    Freshman Andrea Kelson read her poem about bullying. A Revolution ended with this challenge: “If you ­didn’t know, now you do … What are you gonna do about it?”

A Revolution

by Andrea Kelson

Believe me when I say
Boys ain’t everything
Drama ain’t worth your time
And those popular girls ain’t worth a dime
 
Believe me when I say
High school is its own war zone
And no one is safe
Bullies are insecure
And the rumors ain’t nothing
But pure venom waiting on
You to get close enough for
The bite
 
Believe me when I say
Crying happens everyday
I see a lot of mascara
Running down the outcasts’ face
And their tormentors are laughing
But it sure as hell ain’t funny
 Believe me when I say
School should be your everything
Learning how to spell
And maybe just a little care
‘Cause it will help everyone
 
Believe me when I say
No one should be bullied
Or left feeling empty
And no more picking on the kid who already has nothing
 
Believe me when I say
Everyone doesn’t have to get along
But I think a little acceptance
Would at least keep everything PG rated
 
Believe me when I say
The fights ain’t no longer funny
The cussing ain’t cool
And ganging up on someone defenseless
Has got to stop
 
Believe me when I say
This is the end of an era
And the beginning of a revolution
 
If you didn’t know, now you do
You know that
The powerless are hurting
The weak are suffering
The open-minded are damaged
The quiet are terrified
And my question to you is
 
WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?

    The effect was profound, according to counselor Roberta Reeves. Twelve students of different races, genders and social strata stepped up as the group Braver, Kinder Calvert. This year weekly meetings began under her sponsorship.
    “They’re working to create a kinder, braver world that celebrates individuality and empowers young people to accept diversity,” Reeves says.
    Last October, Braver, Kinder Calvert built a Wall of Intolerance, with students adding one paper brick each time they saw a bully at work. At the end of each week, the students met to talk about the bullies behind the bricks.
    Valentine’s Day brought Braver, Kinder Cards. When students saw an act of kindness, they described it on a card. Teachers received the cards and delivered them at week’s end to the surprised doers of kindnesses small and large.
    All this since LaGoy spoke out. And since Kelson read her poem.
    “Out of anguish, these young ladies really stepped up and made a difference,” Reeves says. “They planted a seed. It grew and has produced beauty.”
    Transformation has spread throughout the school.
    “When you speak out against bullying, that is social justice at work,” Reeves tells her students. “You’re walking in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who died for this cause.”
    Following in King’s footsteps, the students of Braver, Kinder Calvert travel to the King Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 5 to present a program of poetry and song honoring Dr. King.