Kindness is elementary: Collaboration between La Jolla schools seeks to encourage ‘positive change’

Students from La Jolla and Bird Rock elementary schools have teamed up to spread kindness in the community.
(Courtesy of Monique Konovalov)

Students at La Jolla Elementary and Bird Rock Elementary schools are aiming to increase kindness through pledges, projects and more.

Monique Konovalov, co-advisor for the LJES student council, of which her fifth-grader is a member, said the group of 13 students began implementing activities from The Be Kind People Project, an Arizona-based nonprofit that offers schools and communities ideas for community engagement, classroom lessons and more.

Soon after deciding to take on The Be Kind People Project, the LJES student council thought to broaden the impact by inviting Bird Rock and Torrey Pines elementary schools to join in, Konovalov said.

She said BRES jumped on board right away with its Bird Squad, a group of students who take on leadership roles at the school.

Konovalov said TPES “is also interested [but] needed more time” to organize.

BRES Principal Andi Frost said the 20 Bird Squad members joined the Be Kind project because “we want to be a part of our broader community and to really be positive change.”

At BRES, Frost said, “we promote kindness. We discuss ways of being kind and the fact that kindness isn’t just a word, [it’s] an action. How can we all be more kind and more loving and considerate and accepting of one another?”

Konovalov said the students involved have taken a kindness pledge that contains 10 promises, such as “to be encouraging, supportive, positive, helpful, honest, considerate [and] respectful.”

The students are asking classes at their schools to take the pledge.

They also hosted a stand at the La Jolla Open Aire Market on Feb. 27 to raise money for the project, said LJES fifth-grader and student council president Jordan Erwteman.

Jordan said those who worked at the stand raised awareness of The Be Kind People Project’s aim to “get a million people to sign on to the pledge … to spread kindness around the community.”

She said the local members are visiting stores in The Village and Bird Rock to ask merchants to hang a poster about the project in their windows.

When the kids began raising money, they “weren’t sure exactly how we are going to implement kindness in the community,” Konovalov said.

But on March 2, “we had a meeting, and the kids were really passionate about using the money toward humanitarian aid for Ukraine,” she said. Some students already were beginning to research organizations to donate to.

“They’re a pretty enthusiastic bunch, motivated to do whatever is helpful,” Konovalov said.

A local woman is hoping the kindness of San Diego residents will help her continue to support the education of impoverished girls in Kenya.

Jordan said the project’s efforts are important because “we want the community to be in peace and we want everybody to be kind so it can just be a better world.”

The kids will conduct a beach cleanup later in March, she said.

“We’ll also document any stories of kindness that we come across in our efforts and tag them on social media,” Konovalov said.

She said the group has requested a proclamation from San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria designating La Jolla as a “kindness community” and is waiting to hear from his office.

In the meantime, Konovalov said Gloria’s office has “given us certificates of recognition for our work.”

“We want the community to be in peace and we want everybody to be kind so it can just be a better world.”

— Jordan Erwteman, La Jolla Elementary School student council president

Frost said she hopes the students’ efforts will have a larger impact on La Jolla. “I’m a huge believer in incrementalism ... in ‘Let it first begin with me,’” she said.

Bird Squad advisor Deanna Lack said raising awareness of The Be Kind People Project will encourage others to participate in “little ways, which end up coming together to make a larger and larger change.”

“Just creating that conversation is beneficial to doing something that is more widespread,” she said.

“I just think it’s really great that they are taking on this project and trying to initiate this positive social change in the community,” Konovalov said. “We’ll continue to do the work.” ◆