In 2017, our Two Harbors High School DECA chapter needed to come up with an idea for a group project.
We started talking about the most significant issues we felt were impacting our school. We realized that we had a culture that is disrespectful to each other and that we couldn't be open and honest with each other in a kind way. These attitudes were willing to break someone down and refused to build each other up. If someone had a difference in opinion, they were flat out wrong. No one wanted to speak up in discussions, and learning no longer felt safe. It lacked all civility.
We, as DECA members, approached our principal, Mr. Belcastro, to talk about the school's civility issues. He encouraged and challenged us to come up with a solution to the problem.
As we were thinking about Mr. Belcastro's challenge, we decided it was critical to expose this issue. We were curious; wanting to know was this just Two Harbors High School, or were other schools struggling as well? We decided to contact students and administration from numerous schools in the surrounding region. You know what we found out? It is a problem not only in other schools - but our culture as a whole. And we were determined to fix it.
We decided to host a day-long conference titled the Civility Summit, and the purpose was to tackle incivility head-on.
We knew we needed a professional speaker who could drive home the importance of being civil to each other. We were then introduced to "Dr. Mike" Thomson - a nationally recognized public speaker who grew up in our area, and has spoken to more than 2.5 million people about civility issues!
Dr. Mike is a high-energy speaker who educates, engages, & empowers people to do better with their lives. We could not think of a more perfect person to speak for this topic, so we invited him to be the keynote at the Civility Summit, he agreed with enthusiasm. It was game-changing for our project!
We invited 16 regional high schools to the Civility Summit, and they all agreed to attend the day-long summit. We also wanted to see a change in our community too. We invited numerous businesses to participate in the summit, and 34 companies were represented. Our Mayor, Chris Swanson proclaimed the day as Two Harbors Civility Day.
We knew we were onto something big.
We filled our auditorium with over 600 people and listened to the impactful and challenging message from Dr. Mike. The theme for the day was "Better Me, Better You, Better Us!"
Throughout the day, we divided up into breakout groups and discussed questions that Dr. Mike challenged us on. At the end of the day, each individual school decided to do something for their student body. These schools, including Two Harbors High School, started doing acts of kindness as a way to create more civility within their school culture.
In Autumn 2018, when our DECA chapter came back together to decide what project we wanted to work on, there was a lot of discussion on hosting another Civility Summit.
A pivotable moment for our project decision was when we invited Cassandra Beardsley from Wilderness Health to one of our meetings. We learned from her how big of an issue mental health is right now. It engaged us. We, as the students wanted to find a solution to the problem, but as we researched all the issues around mental health, we realized this would be a daunting challenge. What simple thing could we do to have even the smallest impact on this significant issue?
As we discussed it more, someone suggested that we do acts of kindness similar to the Civility Summit.
Then there was a lightbulb moment.
Could acts of kindness have a positive impact on mental health? We started researching and sure enough; many studies prove that one of the most impactful things we can do for people's mental health is to do a kind thing for them. Not only does it impact the person that receives the kind act, but it also has a powerful and positive impact on the person who is kind.
We decided we wanted to get as many people as possible to do acts of kindness. We felt if there was a challenge involved we could get more engagement from others too, so we formed the kindness challenge called “Find The Kind Challenge.” Our purpose behind everything that we are doing is “To positively impact mental health through acts of kindness.” The reason why we are running our kindness challenges on social media is to engage as many people possible in acts of kindness.
Lastly, we decided we wanted the 100% of donations that would be raised from the Find The Kind Challenge to go to the National Civility Association. Their primary mission is to host Civility Summits in high schools nationwide. The reason why we chose this cause is that we saw the impression that Civility Summits had in our schools and lives, and we wanted to spread that same impact nationwide.
We know that we can be the start of culture change all over the world.