How Vinny Changed His High School Culture

Jul 4, 2016

[Below is an email I just received.  It absolutely made my week. --Nipun]

Hello Mr. Mehta,

I apologize for this long email, but please if you have some time in your busy day can you please read it. My name is [Vinny] and I have had the privilege to listen to you and converse with you in Southern California and in Atlanta. I was inspired by your words then and I am still now. Whenever I am stuck in a sticky situation I remind myself to "Be the Change". I remind myself that kindness is the only universal language that people understand. Those guiding principles have helped me through life so far, and especially during my senior year in high school.

At my school, there was a school shooting and there also was a girl who had committed suicide. The morale among the student body was at its all time low with suspicion, anxiety, and remorse pervading through the hallways and classrooms. I wanted to uplift the school and help alleviate the pain they were experiencing.

So with your guiding principles of spreading kindness, I coordinated a week long program called YOU MATTER that focused on school empowerment and love.

It was coordinated with my school student government, art class, film class, and Parent Association to run this event. I made sure the program seemed as if it originated among the school rather than a person. Messages and programs are more powerful when everyone feels like he or she is leading it. Here was the program we developed and implemented:

Monday: "You are loved"

Our intention was for everyone on campus to know that they are equally loved and are equally important to everyone on campus. We coordinated a video with film department for the day; with student government we made a heart for every single student on campus and added a quote that made them special; we put inspiring and loving notes in every students lockers; we put notes on teachers' cars to let them know we care for them.

Tuesday: "You are not Alone"

Our intention was to focus on letting every student know that everyone has problems, so the way to overcome them are to come together as a community to solve them. We coordinated a video with film department; after school on Monday, I changed all the decorations to match Tuesday theme; we hosted lunch time activities that promoted community empowerment; I gave a motivational talk to the school with examples of possibilities.

Wednesday- " You are Beautiful"

Our intention was for each person on campus to know that they are not only beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside. Like the other days, we coordinated a video with film department and changed the decor to match the theme. Prior to this week, for thirty straight days, I had gone to 30 different stores and garnered a donation of 1,500 roses and 1,300 Hershey chocolates -- and on this day, we distributed a chocolate to every boy and a rose to every girl on campus. We also got bouquets of roses for every staff member, and many of the men gave them to their wives when they went home.

Thursday- "You are Unique"

Our intention was to focus on the concept that every single person is unique in some way. Apart for coordinating a film, we had a talent show at lunch time and also had a band play music during nutrition. It was a relaxed day.  Here's the messages that students had written.

Friday- "We are Comanches"

We changed the focus of the program from You Matter to We Matter as a school. So by using our school mascot, we changed the day to We are Comanches. We gave away a lot of school merchandise like socks, pencils, pens, notebooks, hats, shirts, etc. (We had extra from previous events so why not?!) At lunch time, we hosted an activity in which we said different school chants. We gave counselors, janitors, and food service people letters thanking them for all they have done. With my scholarship money, I got all the janitors tickets to an Angels Game. Each Senior received a personal letter highlighting why they matter (a project that I had started during the beginning of my senior year).

The program was amazing, to say the least. People started to view the issues which happened in the past not as just a moment of sadness, but a watershed event that made the campus more unified and happier than ever before. With your stories, Mr. Mehta, you gave me the motivation that changed the lives and cultural of people on my campus forever.

Thank you,

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