The Great Kindness Challenge

Nicole Spreitzer, Ariella Breyer, Katie Spreitzer and Isabelle Lombardi show off some of the thank you notes and gifts that have come to the front office at Altadena Middle School since the school began their Great Kindness Challenge.

Allison Hurtado

There’s never a good reason to be mean, but 12-year-old Ariella Breyer is giving her entire middle school a reason to be kind.

Breyer is the force behind The Great Kindness Challenge at Kyrene Altadeña Middle School. The idea is to give everyone in the school two paper hearts. Each person is asked to write a kind note to someone and give it to them with an extra paper heart, so they can pass the kindness on to someone else.

Breyer was first issued the challenge in her fourth-grade class.

“It didn’t stay long because it was a small school of only 450 people,” she said. “It didn’t keep going like I felt it should have.”

Breyer was further inspired after hearing the story of Rachel Joy Scott, a victim of the Columbine shooting in 1999 who had been secretly doing small acts of kindness, hoping to create a chain reaction and keeping record of them in a journal, and taking part in Rachel’s Challenge. That’s why Breyer made an appointment with her principal at Altadeña, Nancy Corner, and asked if she could bring her own kindness challenge to the entire school. With a larger audience she hoped to see a larger impact.

“It’s really inspiring to have a student come up with this as opposed to the adults,” Corner said. “I think when it comes from a student it’s much more meaningful for the other kids. I said OK if this student is willing to do this we’ll do what we can to help her get it going.”

Corner met with Breyer several times for planning meetings. They paired the paper hearts with a list of 50 kind things and launched The Great Kindness Challenge on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

“(My sister and I have) been friends with Ariella for seven years,” said Katie Spreitzer, 11. “From the time we met her to now she’s always been really into being kind, doing challenges, and trying to make things better. She asked us one day if we could help her with some posters for the kindness challenge and we agreed. I thought it was a great idea because we should be kind and not mean. If there’s a chance to be kind, why be mean?”

Katie and Nicole Spreitzer said since the challenge has been going on they’ve noticed a lot more thank you’s, flowers in the front office and thank you posters on the walls of the cafeteria.

Isabelle Lombardi, 12, said she noticed a few kids not taking the challenge seriously but she’s trying to do everything on the list with purpose.

“I wanted to do it to make people realize you had to do it out of the kindness of your heart,” she said. “I taped hearts randomly throughout our house and I made cards for the people in the office using hearts and glitter glue and made it look nice so people know I actually put effort into it. I didn’t make it just to check it off my list. I want to make sure it actually helps people.”

The Great Kindness Challenge will end at the school on Feb. 11, but Breyer said she hopes to see it continue much longer.

“I hope it continues past this year,” she said. “I hope it carries on to next year and more people will participate even outside the school. It, to me, is something that should happen with or without a prize or with or without even knowing about it. I think having it there gives you a reminder that you should be doing it.”

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