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Hawthorne Elementary Students Demonstrate ‘Compassion in Action’

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Teacher revives program to encourage children to share kindness

Kearney, Mo., Oct. 8, 2021: The CIA agents have a mission at Hawthorne Elementary School.

“CIA” in this case stands for Compassion In Action, and the agents are a select group of third-graders and fifth-graders who are stepping up to share kindness with their fellow students, teachers and support staff. This team of students launched their new campaign for compassion with a boisterous welcoming committee when school started Friday morning, Oct. 8.

Bryce, a third-grader with a handsome mop of blonde hair, stood by the main entrance of Hawthorne Elementary with a colorful sign – “You always have a friend!” – and hollered encouraging words as students were dropped off by a steady stream of buses and cars. He volunteered for the Compassion In Action team to help students and staff have a great start to their day.

“We’re here so that whenever people come to school, we can make them happy!” Bryce said. “It makes me feel good when people are kind to me, so I want to help them feel the same way.”

Compassion in Action is sponsored by Hawthorne Elementary third-grade teacher Leslie Brennan. She developed the concept in 2019 to teach and encourage her students to demonstrate small acts of kindness to others. The program was put on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19, but Ms. Brennan is reviving it for the new school year.

“It is absolutely amazing and everyone loves it, especially parents!” Brennan said. “It is all about spreading compassion and kindness everywhere since we just do not know who could use a smile these days.”

Students who join the Compassion In Action campaign will create encouraging posters and cheer on students and staff as they arrive for classes in the morning. They will also make greeting cards with affirmations that they will place for others to discover in lockers, shelves, under tables and even outside in the playground.

“It is so nice to know that we made at least one person smile for the day, and that is all that matters,” Brennan said.

It’s always important for schools to develop a nurturing culture and climate that meets the social and emotional needs of students, according to Hawthorne Elementary Principal Lauren Malone. That need is particularly acute when things like COVID-19 make life even more challenging.

“Ms. Brennan is an amazing educator and this is a great example of how our team goes above and beyond every day to support our students and families,” Ms. Malone said. “The lessons our kids are learning about the power of kindness and encouragement are going to stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

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