WESTPORT, Conn. – The message that it’s cool to be kind is one that all third-graders in Westport will hear now that the Kool To Be Kind anti-bullying program has been implemented in all five elementary schools in town.
In the program, created by four Westport women, trained Staples High School students act as role models to elementary school students. These teen mentors go into third-grade classrooms several times during the school year and teach interactive lessons that promote kindness, empathy, the creation of allies and teach students how to handle tough situations.
“I really enjoyed [Kool To Be Kind] because it showed me how to stand up for kids and what ways I can help make a better community," said Long Lots student Jackie Zinn, whose class participated in the program last year.
The program was tested in third-grade classrooms at Coleytown Elementary and Long Lots schools for the past two years and expanded to all five schools last week, program co-creator Sarah Green said.
Inspired by Anti-Defamation League programming, Kool To Be Kind — or K2BK for short — was founded by Cindy Eigen, Green, Lynne Goldstein and Melissa Shein. It's now run by Eigen, Green, Goldstein and Karen Varsano.
More than 100 Staples students are participating in the program as mentors, Green said. The students are divided into teams and assigned a classroom, where they teach five times during the year.
Before the Staples students can be a mentor, they are trained by members of the Anti-Defamation League and by Green, Eigen, Goldstein and Varsano.
“Going through training and being exposed to how significant the act of kindness truly is has inspired me to pass on my own experiences to others, not just to the kids I teach in the program, but also to my peers,” said K2BK mentor Sami Bautista, a senior at Staples. “More than anything else, being a part of K2BK has increased my awareness.”
Staples senior Michaela MacDonald, who has been a mentor in the program since her sophomore year, said she, too, has been positively influenced by the program. Since she got involved, she said she’s become stronger, kinder and more courageous.
“Of all the activities that I do, K2BK is hands down the most rewarding and powerful experience. It has changed lives, and it reminds me that I too can accomplish change if I set my heart and mind to it,” Michaela said. "I have never been prouder to be a member of something than I am of K2BK.”
For more information about K2BK, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Sarah Green at 203-246-2010.