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Westport School Program Promotes Kindness

It's no secret that kids have a powerful influence on one another. That's why a pilot program in Westport started by four moms uses high school students as role models to promote kindness and respect among elementary school kids. The program, called Kool to be Kind, takes a proactive approach to try to prevent bullying.

"We're trying to teach kids in an experiential way what it feels like to be in a bullying situation by focusing on all players: the target, the perpetrator, the ally and the bystander," said Cindy Eigen, a clinical psychologist and one of the program's founders.

Eigen, along with Melissa Shein, Lynne Goldstein and Sarah Green, were inspired to start Kool to be Kind by an Anti-Defamation League presentation where high school students spoke about their experiences with bullying. Hearing that many first experienced bullying in elementary school, Eigen said they decided to create a program for third-graders in the hopes of stopping bullying before it starts.

In-classroom lessons taught in this program, which is being tested at Coleytown Elementary and Long Lots, are intended to complement the Social Skills curriculum already in place at the elementary schools, Eigen said.

"We're trying to raise awareness that it takes a community to raise a child. The people in the administration have been great in supporting and embracing this program," she said, adding that it has received rave reviews from parents, teachers, school administrators and students.

All 23 high school students taking part in this program have been trained by the Anti-Defamation League, as have Eigen, Shein, Goldstein and Green.

Staples sophomore Michaela Macdonald said she thinks she and the other student mentors are making a positive impact on the elementary students. "We are really giving these kids the tools to deal with bullying, and I think this exposure is very important for them to have," she said. "With each lesson I can see all of them being much more aware of the way they treat others, even with where they sit in the circle and how they make sure everyone is always included."

What do you think of the idea behind Kool to be Kind?

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