At the beginning of the 2013-’14 school year Su Chafin, psychotherapist at Milford High School (MSD) Wellness Center, assisted students in creating the Students for a Million Acts of Kindness (SMAK) campaign. An effort that started as a way to proactively prevent bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month, the concept quickly grew into a movement at MHS as students took the initiative to make it a priority during the school day. Chafin believes that this program has changed the way in which teachers and students affect their surroundings by proactive encouragement.
At the end of the year, the students surpassed their goal of reaching one million acts of kindness, documenting a total of 1, 074,571 acts in just ten months. Gaining attention throughout the entire school district, 170 Milford students were named official SMAK ambassadors as they encouraging acts of kindness across six schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
An advisor during the inaugural year of SMAK, Foreign Language teacher Cami Morgan will be taking a lead role in the student-driven organization. “Last year’s program started with a few students at the high school who saw a problem with the way their classmates were treating each other. They felt that if students could learn to choose kindness the environment would be more positive,” said Morgan. “This year our students have been learning to plan and organize their ideas on their own. They’re still trying to be a presence in the school by hosting cafeteria events that allow their classmates easy ways to participate in acts of kindness.”
This year has been different than last year. Instead of working with one goal in mind like last year, each school in the district is doing something different. At the high school, advisors are still working with the SMAK ambassador group, teaching them valuable leadership skills. “We’re trying to continue teaching them about leadership, but now we’re trying to give them the skills they need to plan ways to help their families, school, and community and to also make their plans happen with less help from us,” stated Morgan. “We want them to feel empowered and realize that they are the change-makers. We’re simply here to guide them in the process.”
During the fall, students participated in the trick or treat at the high school where they dressed up as kindness minions and danced with the younger students from the Milford School District in the hallway. They recently did a “Kisses for Kindness” banner activity in the cafeteria lobby to encourage students to take part in SMAK. They have been working on collecting toiletries to donate to a family in the district who recently lost their home to a fire and working on planning a clothing drive for homeless youth, supporting some SMAK ambassadors as they try to branch off and focus on teaching students to be kinder to themselves. “It’s a slower process this year as we’re teaching them to take the wheel and drive the SMAK bus themselves,” said Morgan. “This year we don’t have any crazy goal or crazy rewards planned for the end of the year, but we’re trying to let the kindness they do be the reward.”
This year SMAK students are trying to think of ways to get the community involved in one of their big projects. They are currently trying to figure out a way to donate their time to area businesses and working on an idea of possibly selling raffle tickets in the community to raise money to donate to local organizations. Students are in charge of planning this year’s events. The ultimate goal for the program is to have a lasting effect on the community so that the program does not have a reason to exist.
“I would like this program to stop being a program. I would like choosing kindness to be the norm. I would like SMAK to be a connection between our students and the community and our meetings to be a place where they can come together and have a chance for students to figure out where they want to devote their time,” said Morgan.
Morgan states that SMAK can look different depending on the age of the students and their leadership skills, but it’s something that any student can participate in, any student can be accepted, and any student can create a positive change.