Carbon School District Press Release
Students returning to school at Helper Middle School on Jan. 2 were surprised when they found posters on the front of each of their lockers.
More surprising was the message. The posters listed the good words others in their school had said about them in black and white.
The posters are part of the positivity challenge the school is doing and the whole process began just before Thanksgiving break.
“Our counselor, Nikki Vasquez, had the students write positive things about other students,” said Mika Salas, the principal at Helper Middle School. “At first we thought we were going to have them say something about everyone in the school, but instead we broke the school into groups of 20 students and staff members each. We wanted what they said to be authentic and for them to put a good effort into it.”
The forms the students filled out to create the posters came from Google Forms and off to the side was a list of about 200 words the students could use to describe people in their group. Salas said they just didn’t want the kids to write things like “good” over and over again so they gave them a comprehensive list of positives to pick from.
“We wanted descriptive words, not something generic,” said Salas. “All the students took about a half a class period to fill it out on the day before Thanksgiving.”
Vasquez, who Salas said almost single handedly facilitated the project, then went through the lists the kids had created over the ensuing month, fixed any spelling errors and made sure capitalization was applied where it should be. She then entered the words into a program called Wordle, which creates posters. The words were placed on the posters in random order by the program except that the more frequently the word was used concerning any particular student the larger it appeared on the page. So, if a student had a lot of people write the word “friendly” about them, that word would appear large on the page.
Vasquez then printed all those posters on solid colors for the boys and more patterned poster backgrounds for the girls. Included on the poster was also their name and HMS Rams.
“She spent a lot of time looking for scrapbook pages for the backgrounds so they would come out just right and be more decorative,” said Salas. “She then spent over 30 hours putting them together, laminating them, putting magnetic strips on the back, and then making sure that when the kids returned from Christmas break they were on their lockers when they got to school.”
Students coming into school that morning were very surprised. No one had any idea that the exercise that they participated in just before Thanksgiving would result in what they saw hanging there.
One of the most notable things about how the project was received by the students is that a few days later, many of the posters still remained on lockers.
“When we do student body elections, the kids make posters and sometimes they get vandalized, torn or stolen,” said Salas. “Knowing the amount of labor that went into this, I was here early on Tuesday morning when the kids came back to be sure nothing was happening to the posters. The students didn’t know what we were doing, and they were surprised when they returned. All they knew was that the lists they made was a positivity exercise. No vandalism took place or has taken place.”
For the students, it was special.
“It was personal, it was meaningful and it was specific to each student,” said Salas. “They are all different. Not two are alike. It meant so much to them. We suggested to them that they put them on the inside of their locker, but a lot have left them out. It was like ‘Oh my gosh, people wrote that about me?’ They are proud of it.”
The staff’s posters were put on their desks for them to see when they got back, too. Their response to their posters was also interesting. The food service department in the school didn’t know anything about it and when they first got the posters, they they thought they were nice. But when Salas explained to them that the large words on the posters were the things that kids had written and what they thought about them, they got tears in their eyes.
“I told them that when you see “kind” on that list in big letters, that is what the kids wrote about about you a lot,” she said. “They didn’t realize that it came from the kids. Our staff is just as touched as the students by this because when you read those words, it just means so much.”
Salas said it is just emblematic of how the school, staff and students work to care for others.