MILTON, Ga. — Summit Hill Elementary students created quite the cheerful scene last Wednesday decorating the school’s hallways to share their appreciation to city officials, volunteers and first responders. The city representatives walked through the “Kindness Tunnel” while students cheered and thanked them for their service with encouraging signs, banners and high-fives aplenty.

The Kindness Tunnel was a new addition to the school’s Kindness Week and the international initiative, The Great Kindness Challenge.

All last week, students were inspired to be nice to those around them, including marking off items on a kindness checklist that included acts such as smiling at 25 people or helping a friend up who had fallen. The school also formed a “compliment crew” to greet students, and teachers met students with signs saying “You matter” or “Have a great day.”

The initiative was spearheaded by Summit Hill counselor Ruth Bowen, who has been with the school for seven years.

“We encourage our kids to be kind all year long, but Kindness Week is a special time to celebrate truly being kind to other people and to go above to see the impact kindness has in our world,” Bowen said.

The impact was evident for both students, school staff and city representatives on Wednesday at the Kindness Tunnel.

“The students cheered, said thank you and waved their signs, and I think it was a really neat experience for everybody involved, the students, the guests and even our teachers and employees to see the impact our students’ kindness on the guests that came,” Bowen said. “I had parents say their kids came home talking about it or talking about it before school, and they were so excited about the police officers taking selfies with them, all the high-fives they got or that the city mayor was here.”

Milton city staff and first responders were reveling in the moment as well, Bowen said.

“They were very appreciative, and I think they were blown away by the number of people who came to participate in the tunnel and the excitement the children had on their faces to be able to say thank you,” she said.

The tunnel ended in the school’s cafeteria where students showered guests with thank you cards and shared breakfast.

“Kindness is such an important trait to have,” Bowen said. “Academics are important, too, and we care about academics, but teaching kindness is an invaluable lesson for these future leaders.”

And the students seemed to heed the message. 

“Teachers were sending me emails all week long on the kind things their students were doing above and beyond what was on the checklist,” Bowen said. “It was really heartwarming to see them take that to heart and really going out of their way, not just to complete the checklist, but to find other ways to be kind to the other kids in their class or the other people in the school.”

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