Tag Archives: Kool To Be Kind

Bullying And Cyber-Threats: The (Teen) Experts Speak

“Stricter parents make sneakier children.”

That was one of the gems offered Thursday night. The Westport Arts Center and Anti-Defamation League presented a workshop on “What Children Wish Their Parents Knew About Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Name-Calling.” It was part of the WAC’s current “More Than Words” exhibition, about that topic.

Marji Lipshez-Shapiro — ADL-Connecticut’s director of education — led the event. But the high school panelists stole the show.

They’re the ones who delivered insights like the one about strict parents and sneaky children. The speaker above was explaining that because teenagers’ technical skills far outstrip their parents’, mutual trust makes that relationship work.

Johnny Donovan and Megan Hines — co-presidents of Staples’ Kool To Be Kind group — and fellow K2BK members Gavin Berger, Brian Greenspan, Isabel Handa, Ben Klau and Emerson Kobak — reassured the 100 parents in attendance that they’re raising their kids well. They praised the school system and town for their bullying prevention and intervention programs.

The panelists also presented some scary previews of what’s ahead.

Brian Greenspan, Ben Klau, Gavin Berger and Emerson Kobak were part of the Kool To Be Kind panel at the Westport Arts Center.

Brian Greenspan, Ben Klau, Gavin Berger and Emerson Kobak were part of the Kool To Be Kind panel at the Westport Arts Center….

Among their thoughts:

One Stapleite said that Instagram is a good way for 7th graders to start on social media. Facebook can be added in late middle school. Beware: Snapchat can be “dangerous.”

But another said, “Let kids discover social media on their own. Putting on age restrictions makes something seem taboo.”

When one panelist’s parents gave her a smartphone, they asked for her passcode — and told her they could check it any time. They don’t — but she realizes they can. “So I know the boundaries,” she concluded.

Parents should teach their children that the cyber world is not private. Middle schoolers “don’t know that innately.”

Some parents limit their kids’ technology use by making sure phones, laptops and other devices are charged each night in the kitchen — or parents’ rooms. One K2BK member was actually relieved by that rule. “I would’ve gotten no sleep in middle school if I could have texted all night,” he said. Another explained, “It’s not healthy to be distracted all the time.”

...And so were Johnny Donovan, Megan Hines and Isabel Handa.

…And so were Johnny Donovan, Megan Hines and Isabel Handa.

Stresses on tweens and teens are real. “Don’t say ‘get over it,'” one of the panelists noted. “That doesn’t help at all.”

As for bullying: Classmates and older kids are not the only perpetrators. “The meanest thing anyone ever said to me was by a teacher,” one boy noted.

When should parents call other parents about an issue between their children?

“It ends at elementary school,” one girl said. “After that, kids need to learn to fight their own battles.”

“It’s never too young to encourage your child to have her own voice,” another member added. “But you still have to let them know you’ll always be there for them.”

Bullying can take place in person, or in cyberspace.

Bullying can take place in person, or in cyberspace.

Megan gave a particularly powerful presentation. Speaking personally — as someone who does not take Advanced Placement or Honors courses, and who has been called “stupid” because of her passion for fashion merchandising — she spoke articulately, and at times painfully, about her journey to believe in herself.

Ultimately, the panelists agreed, raising a child who can stand up to name-calling; who does not bully, and who can navigate the complex world of cyberspace, is a comes down to trust.

“My parents gave me the stage,” one of the Staples students said. “And they let me tell my own story on it.”

Kindness Is Kontagious

To reading, writing and arithmetic, add one more task for 3rd graders: kindness.

Beginning today — and continuing through February 18 — students in all 5 Westport elementary schools are off on a “Kool To Be Kind Scavenger Hunt.” The 2nd annual event — run in conjunction with Staples High School mentors — involves booklets, with clues to 50 local businesses.

One of the posters, advocating kindness "Ally Power."

One of the posters, advocating kindness “Ally Power.”

Over 600 youngsters will solve the clues, locate participating stores, and find posters (which the kids themselves helped decorate). Meanwhile, they’ll learn about each business’s own acts of kindness.

Turns out that the 50-plus merchants who participate in the Kool To Be Kind program are very kind — and cool kool — themselves.

For example:

  • Learning Express donates toys to school fundraisers
  • Groove gives gift baskets to the “Near & Far” auction
  • Gold’s Deli donates all leftover bread to homeless shelters
  • Verizon provides iPad minis to public schools
  • Party Hardy donates balloons and party supplies to school events
  • Great Cakes offers baked goods for school and community events
  • Poster Animal Hospital does not charge Westport and Fairfield police service dogs
  • Elvira’ s constantly donates to school and community events
  • Planet Pizza sponsors Little League teams
Top This is one of many Westport business displaying a Kool To Be Kind "Ally Power" poster.

Top This is one of many Westport business displaying a Kool To Be Kind “Ally Power” poster.

Kool To Be Kind organizers say, “It is heartwarming to know that we live in a town where each and every place of business is truly doing something kind for our community. In a world that often seems dark, and just when it seems that people are only in it for themselves, the children of Westport are finding a lot of light and generosity.”

Thanks not only to the kindness of local merchants, but to the adults and older teenagers of Kool To Be Kind, too.

Great Cakes/Great Story

Once word got out this morning that Great Cakes might close tomorrow — owner Rick Dickinson was unsure whether he could weather the tough period between the holidays and Easter — Westporters went to work.

Folks flooded the popular bakery. They bought coffee, challah and cupcakes.

They handed over cash and checks. And they opened “pre-paid accounts,” to tide Rick through the next few weeks.

Here’s a sign on the front window, made and posted by some Kool2BKind moms:

Great Cakes sign

“Save Our Store” it says. “Open your pre-pay account. Great Cakes knows it’s Kool To Be Kind.”

Meanwhile, here’s another we-love-Great Cakes poster, created by Kings Highway 2nd grader Ryan Lapatine:

It says:

Do you like cake and cupcakes? Great Cake’s

They also have cupcakes, bread and coffe.

You can sit inside.

The employees are REALY nice.

What’s especially impressive is that Ryan chose Great Cakes as her topic for a “persuasive writing” class assignment.

Last week.

You Can Save Great Cakes Today!

Sarah Green — one of the founders of Kool To Be Kind — saw this morning’s “06880” post on the dire straits of Great Cakes.

Owner Rick Dickinson has always been kind to her organization. She emailed me:

great-cakes-logoLynne Goldstein, Cindy Eigen and I are in Great Cakes right now brainstorming ways to save this wonderful local business. Basically, Rick needs $4,000 by tomorrow. If people will come in TODAY and give $100 or $200  for a prepaid account, he can make it … for now.

We need to save the man’s business. Here is someone who was struggling but STILL donated  to K2BK, for example. We as a community can save him!

Is there any way you can blog this now?


Being Kind Is Kool

What does your child want for the holidays?

Some ask for the hottest video games. Some want the latest clothes.

Others just want to go a day without being teased.

To help achieve that goal, this week all 5 Westport elementary schools have celebrated Kool To Be Kind.

Bullying is so uncool.

Bullying is so uncool.

K2BK — as its koolly called — is an anti-bullying program created by 4 Westport women. Staples High School students are trained to lead interactive lessons about empathy, kindness and handling tough situations.  Over 100 Stapleites — split into teams — now work with 3rd graders in every school, 5 times a year.

They introduce concepts like “allies, bystanders, targets and bullies,” and probe issues like why “kool” can be a synonym for “mean.” Teachers and 50 parent volunteers — working with pre- and post-lesson plans, and supplemental reading — help the program run smoothly.

Long Lots student Jackie Zinn nailed it. She said she liked K2BK because it showed her how to “stand up for kids and what ways I can help make a better community.”

A trusting circle of K2BK high school students, 3rd graders, teachers and parents.

A trusting circle of K2BK high school students, 3rd graders, teachers and parents.

But 3rd graders are not the only ones learning about empathy. Staples students say they now see their peers and entire school experience through different lenses.

“K2BK has made me more aware that even little actions can greatly impact someone’s life. It’s up to me to decide whether that impact is positive or negative,” says Staples senior Sami Bautista.

“Of all the activities I do, K2BK is hands down the most rewarding and powerful experience,” adds senior Michaela MacDonald. “It has helped me grow into a much stronger, kinder, more courageous person. Thanks to K2BK, I feel more comfortable being who I am.”

In addition, teachers create their own projects in between sessions. Parent volunteers bring the lessons home to their children.

Kool To Be Kind logoAnd a townwide scavenger hunt — in which 3rd graders follow clues to various merchants, and learn how each business is “kind” and “pays it forward” around town and beyond — has involved countless people beyond the schools.

Clearly, Kool To Be Kind has impacted lives, and changed behaviors. Now, if we can just spread the idea that bullying isn’t cool to Westport drivers.

And, ahem, a couple of “06880” commenters…