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“Kindness starts here, in this room,” speaker Tia Stokes said, her voice echoing in the silence of the meeting hall. 

“You make the difference.”

Earlier this month, Provo Kindness held the Kindness Club retreat, inviting all Provo City School District Kindness Clubs to examine how to spread Kindness in their schools. The staff split the Kindness Retreats into secondary and elementary school retreats, with different activities tailored to their ages and school needs. 

The secondary Kindness Club Retreat commenced with a speech from Stokes. She shared her story spanning from her time as a professional dancer for famous musicians like Beyonce, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and B2K to opening her first hip-hop-based dance studio called ‘Kalamity.’ The group name originated from its aim to raise funds for a dancer in their group battling cancer, overcoming a personal ‘calamity.’ They funded around 1400 dollars.

“It was the sort of fundraiser where only family members and parents visit– but it was a start.”

Eventually, Kalamity spread and developed a second studio, raising more than a million dollars for their dancer. Suddenly, at the height of their success, Tia fell sick. After rushing to the hospital, doctors explained that Tia had cancer. She had twenty-four hours to say goodbye to her children, husband, and family before they dropped her off on the hospital steps to start treatment.

“This is when everything came full circle for me, battling my calamity.”

Tia shared that she gained weight, lost her hair, and grew very sick from the treatment. When she was at her lowest, she realized she had to choose positivity and Kindness. Tia decided to dance. She shared her dances from her hospital bed on TikTok. 

Those online saw her message and shared dances back to motivate her. Thousands of videos saturated her feed, inspiring her throughout the healing process, and she inevitably prevailed. Upon arriving home, however, she learned that her mother had passed away while she was in the hospital. 

“It was then, when it was really hard, that I remembered what my mom told me. Every challenge is an opportunity. This moment, this trial, was an opportunity.”

Tia moved forward with a message that she shared with the students at the Retreat: 

“Kindness starts here, in this room. Even if you are stuck bedside, you can make a difference.”

Tia used the remainder of their time conversing with students about what they were grateful for in life and why they joined the Kindness Club. One student shared that they were thankful for their mother, then stated that their friend invited them to the Club. Many students nodded in agreement; the extension of their friends brought them to the Club. Tia asked them to spread this kindness forward, establishing that kindness and positivity is a choice one can make anywhere, anytime. 

With the soul of the event set, students moved about different Kindness Workshops. 

In the first room, Provo Board member Jennifer Partridge asked students to define Kindness and what a Kindness Club does. One student offered their personalized definition of kindness:

“Kindness is considering the why behind people’s actions. It also means that you genuinely listen and appreciate the differences between you and them. Then, it means you show them respect, regardless of how they might act toward you or others.”

After defining interpersonal kindness, Jennifer Partridge outlined what a Kindness Club is not, stating that Kindness Clubs are not service clubs, poster-making clubs, teacher-led, or exclusive. Kindness clubs, she forwarded, are places to discuss and create plans to create school-wide cultures of kindness, prepare outreach opportunities, and personally develop and grow. 

One room broke students into small groups to compete in team-building activities where each student had an opportunity to listen and to lead. One student shared a lesson from their activity, noting that teamwork “isn’t about how one person took control, but how we all managed to self-assess, accept criticism, and offer positive feedback. Kindly communicating with each other was just as important as the goal.”

In the third room, students brainstormed what made their school unique and where they felt they needed to make changes to make all classmates feel excited about attending. 

One student from Independence shared their pride in their school, mentioning the small class sizes and the tight-knit camaraderie between teachers and students, mentioning that activities and clubs like the Retreat for the Kindness Club made him feel included and excited. 

The workshop speaker jotted down the student’s comments on the whiteboard before outlining the “5 pillars of Kindness Clubs”: Clubs, Activities, Athletics, Staff, and Community.

The workshop examined how students can call on staff members, athletic clubs, and community members to create experiences that excite students. Students discussed holding events like High Five Fridays and Cumbia dance halls and specific communities and clubs they could partner with to host more significant events. 

The Elementary Retreat hosted Miss Provo, Glory Thomas, as their lead speaker, teaching students about Rachel’s Challenge. Her seminar explored five specific ways to create kindness in their schools. Their workshops asked students to play similar team-building games and define Kindness and Kindness Clubs. Lastly, they wrote letters on postcards to share with people deserving of kindness.

Kindness Clubs are culture-makers. They help students recognize others and make people feel seen. Retreats like this are a necessary reminder that inclusion is an active process that can take root anywhere; in clubs, in classrooms, and at home. When the cultural zeitgeist holds empathy as outdated or naive, it’s nice to know that there are students dedicated to spreading kindness.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei