Daviess County Middle School students are aiming to spread kindness through one of the school’s clubs.
The Kindness Club, formerly known as the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), meets every Thursday morning and is sponsored by the Green River District Health Department.
The club is directed by Amy Brown, a health educator with the department, who works with DCMS Family Resource Youth Service Center coordinator Brittany Mullen.
Brown said the health department has similar clubs or classes in every county they cover except for McLean County.
“It’s for a lack of funding,” she said. “We’d be in every school if we had enough funding.”
The program has four main goals with students: improve social and emotional learning and learn life skills; support development of a positive sense of self; strengthen connections to others; and improve academic outcomes and decrease risky behavior.
“Our main focus is making the students positive and feel better, to help with relationships, decision-making and goal-setting,” Brown said.
The curriculum the health department uses is based on three books with different topics such as learning about self, connecting with others and building skills.
One of the downsides to the clubs, Brown said, is they are only able to reach so many students and feels limited.
“It would be great if we could do this in every single health class,” Brown said.
Because of the training, Brown has to be present to teach the curriculum.
“I was at College View (Middle School) last year and they’ve trained their FRYSC coordinator to be a facilitator,” Brown said. “Not everyone can do this. I have to be here to do this.”
Mullen said the students in the club at DCMS spread kindness and the ideas they learn every week to their peers in school.
“I see them in the hall and they’re starting to do that,” she said. “They’re trying to make others smile. I think we influence them and show them how to be a positive influence.”
Mullen said she thinks the club allows the students to feel comfortable to go to her with anything they’re struggling with.
“Our first meeting, they didn’t talk, they just stared at the floor. They felt uncomfortable,” she said. “Now, they talk to each other in the hallways, they sit together at lunch. They’ve already created a bond and it’s only been four weeks.”
In a TOP report Brown shared with the Messenger-Inquirer, 95% of students felt the club was a safe space for them to share what they think. At the beginning of being in the club, 88% felt like they made decisions that kept them healthy and safe and 93% said they felt like they made healthy and safe decisions at the end of being in the club.
Seventh-grader Lydia Rumage is one of the club members at DCMS.
“I signed up this year because I didn’t know the club existed last year,” she said.
Rumage decided to join because she thought it would be interesting and a way for her to meet new people who have the “same energy” as her.
“Everyone is always very happy and always has funny stories to tell,” she said. “They bring good energy and make my day better.”
Showing kindness is important to Rumage, especially in middle school. She said sometimes students aren’t always nice.
“If you’re kind, you can make others feel better about themselves,” she said.
Some of the ways Rumage enjoys making others feel good is through compliments and jokes, even if they’re cheesy, she said.