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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Compassion campaign continues at Butler Middle School

Aug 23, 2018 03:24PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Butler Middle School is the home of a compassion campaign, in response to the Parkland, Fla. Shootings. It is designed for middle school students to make creative a positive school culture. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

It’s been months since the Parkland, Florida shooting and protests, but Butler Middle School students are keeping the effort to spread kindness alive. 

“After the Parkland shooting, our students wanted to do something more than a one-day protest,” school librarian Jennifer VanHaaften said. “Most of our students wanted to find a voice to show they cared.”

After seeing a Facebook post about doing 17 acts of kindness, Butler students jumped on board to pledge to build their school community. Then, they participated in random acts of kindness. 

“We hoped they would make a new friend or get to know someone better through their acts of kindness,” VanHaaften said. “It was a voluntary action and done on the honor system. We wanted their actions to help build a positive school culture in our middle school.” 

Those efforts were refreshing and rewarding; enough so that the program will continue this school year. 

“We saw a group of girls post uplifting notes on the lockers of 900-plus students. Kids introduced themselves to new friends and sat together at lunch. They were giving smiles and high-fives. Middle school can be a hard time for some students and our students brought a positive light to our school,” VanHaaften said. 

Their actions were displayed with the pledges in the school library under “Compassion Saves Lives” as well as posted on “Butler Bruins, what’s your 17?” The number comes directly from when a gunman opened fire Feb. 14 at a Parkland, Florida high school, killing 17 students and staff members and injuring 17 others. The shooting sparked unprecedented demands for gun control and school safety, arising from the high school survivors as well as students nationwide. 

VanHaaften said the effort to have a more compassionate school environment also extends through the school’s book club as they read the novel “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio. 

“We try to keep the conversation going. We also talk about relationships, life skills, being responsible with technology, cyberbullying and kindness through our Bruin times every Friday. In middle school, there always is a need to have this conversation and learn why it’s important to be compassionate,” she said. 

The compassion campaign and mini lessons, in addition to school announcements and emails, were prepared by teachers who wanted to help students find a way to be impactful and make the difference positively.

“We wanted our students to know why they would be walking out and what they needed to do and how they needed to behave responsibly to have adults listen to them,” VanHaaften said. “We also wanted to support them as they showed they cared and wanted to do something purposeful to help the situation at their own school,” she said.