By Mary O’KEEFE
ith only a few days to go Rosemont Middle School students have not only met their goal, they surpassed it.
“It’s no surprise to me,” said Dr. Cynthia Livingston, Rosemont principal, of her students’ overwhelming enthusiasm for the “Think Kindness” project.
It was about 15 days ago that Brian Williams brought his organization “Think Kindness” challenge to the school.
“Our goal is to inspire youth and to [let them know] that everyone has the ability to make a difference,” he said at the time of the Rosemont assembly.
The way the students were to make a difference was simple – collect shoes for those in need.
During an assembly on Sept. 7, Williams shared the story of his organization’s trip to Kenya, Africa and the kids they met at an orphanage. He told the students that many people in the village he visited did not have shoes or were in need of new shoes. During one visit, Williams said, he went to visit a nearby school. The students were divided into two areas. On one side the kids were happy and playing, similar to kids at any elementary school during recess. On the other side, though, there were no smiles; no one was running around playing with friends. On that side the kids did not have uniforms or shoes.
Because Kenya is so impoverished, Williams said, the country couldn’t afford to give everyone an education. If a student had money to purchase a uniform, writing utensils and shoes they could go to school.
Rosemont student Trevor Hall took to heart what Williams said. Hall and others from the Rosemont Builders Club were busy collecting shoes on Wednesday morning, like they had every morning for almost 15 days.
“Not only does this give kids shoes but [a chance at] an education,” Hall said.
As of Wednesday the students were well on their way of collecting over 4,000 pairs of shoes – far beyond the goal set by Williams of 2,500.
The shoes have come to Rosemont in bags and boxes. Kids, parents and neighbors have been bringing in their gently used shoes to the school. They bring them during the day or throw them over the fence after the school closes.
Livingston has even found them on her front porch dropped off by generous neighbors.
“This has been fairly easy,” Hall said of the collection.
The students have done their work getting the word out and every day there is an announcement made to the student body of their progress. There is a competition between seventh and eighth graders; at present eighth grade is ahead in the drive.
An added incentive for students is a program that was created by teachers and is unique to Rosemont – kindness coins. For each pair of shoes they bring in the kids get a coin.
Phoenix Wang, seventh grader and member of the Builders Club, said she has given out a lot of kindness coins.
“You can use them for gift cards or homework passes,” she said.
There are small toys and other little gifts that have been donated by the Rosemont teachers – including homework passes.
Teacher Jessica Cole is the mentor for Builders Club. She has also been at the cafetorium every morning with her kids to help collect and count the pairs of shoes.
“Do you want to see how many shoes we’ve collected?” Cole asked.
She opened the front curtain of the cafetorium’s stage and black bags filled the floor.
“Each bag holds 20 pairs,” Cole added.
Mitchell Doom, seventh grader, was in the cafetorium on Wednesday to help collect. He was proud of what his school has done.
“This is the Kindness Challenge and I am one of the kindness ninjas,” he said.
Williams, a third degree black belt in martial arts, equated the kids to “kindness ninjas.”
A poem that Williams read from a young girl named Grace who lives in Africa touched many of the Rosemont students.
“Grace’s poem made me tear up,” Doom said.
Both Grace’s mother and father had died of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and she also had the disease. Although she was happy most of the time Williams was there, she did sit and ponder her future. She wrote a poem that she gave to Williams that he read to the Rosemont students. The poem spoke about her past struggles, from living on the street and having no one to help her to the orphanage giving her a home.
Grace’s story provided a relatable reason for the Rosemont students to take part in the challenge. These kids living in Africa that Williams described had the same hopes and dreams as the Rosemont kids. In addition to kids, the shoes are being donated to adults – many who have never had a pair of shoes.
“The kindness that is being shown at Rosemont is spilling over into the community,” Livingston said. “These kids have worked so hard. I am proud of them. They are impacting the lives of others.”
The school’s last day for collecting shoes is Friday. Cole has adjusted the original goal for shoe collection to 5,000 total pairs of shoes and, in true Rosemont tradition, the students, faculty and staff would like to surpass even that in the next two days.
Anyone who would like to donate gently used or new shoes of any size can drop them off at Rosemont Middle School, 4725 Rosemont Ave., or at the Fire House, 2563 Foothill Blvd. (If the Fire House is not open, shoes can be placed on the tables in the back of the building). All shoes need to be donated by 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25.