Palm Lake students spreading kindness on campus

Kindness Ambassadors keep recognition coins on hand to give out when they see students being nice.

Principal James Weis, left, Matt and Amy Allen, and school counselor Lauren Akesson recognized students at Palm Lake Elementary School for being kind.
Principal James Weis, left, Matt and Amy Allen, and school counselor Lauren Akesson recognized students at Palm Lake Elementary School for being kind.
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Palm Lake Elementary School students are being rewarded when they’re caught participating in an act of kindness on campus. Last week was the Great Kindness Challenge, and PLES was one of many schools taking part in the national celebration.

They wore T-shirts Wednesday, Jan. 24, announcing “kindness matters” and other positive messages, and students participated in a challenge to complete as many acts of kindness as possible. These included a variety of acts, as students wanted to be as kind as possible.

“(There were) kind acts like creating a kindness poster, complimenting others, inviting someone new to play, sending thank-you notes, making hearts to share with others and opportunities for students to create their own kind acts,” school counselor Lauren Akesson said. “We have also been doing lessons on kindness in the classrooms and encouraging classes to work together to complete the challenges.”

Several hundred challenge forms were returned to Akesson. The students who completed the most challenges, as well as the classes with the most students participating, were recognized on the Bobcat news, received a kindness coin and had a special lunch.

Students keep track of their kindness coins, and when they receive five, they get a kindness bracelet. When they reach 10, they are recognized on the morning announcements, at 15 coins they are given the Kindness Ambassador title and a bag of coins to hand out, and when they reach 20 coins they get a special lunch.

Akesson said the Kids Who Care service learning club and National Elementary Honor Society also have been instrumental in being leaders in action and spreading kindness.

Last year, acts of kindness were documented on kindness strips, which were made into links to form a kindness chain with 1,417 strips and hung in the cafeteria.


The Kindness Ambassadors — Kasai Uche, Cristal Carmo, Lara Oliveira Da Silva, Jackson Nguyen and Valeria Luna Ordonez — said it costs nothing to be kind. Kasai said he holds doors open for people, Valeria plays with students when she sees them sitting on the Buddy Bench, Lara cheers people on when they are struggling to complete a task, Cristal always looks out for other people, and Jackson picks up water bottles after recess if students leave theirs behind.

The ambassadors shared the kindness they have received as well: Valeria said when she was in a new reading class, someone helped her find the classroom, Kasai’s friend let him use his headphones when he needed them, a student helped Lara open a door when her arms were full, someone brought Jackson’s lunchbox to him when he left it outside, and Cristal was told she is a hard worker.

“Being a kindness ambassador is cool,” Valeria said.

“It’s fun to be one because you can help others in need,” Lara said.


PLES parent Amy Allen, whose son, Ashton, attends the school, brought the idea of Kindness Week to the school two years ago. The PTA loved the idea and created a Kindness Committee, and Akesson incorporated it into the school.

The first fundraising event was a welcome back family dinner that brought more than 600 people to the school for pizza and kindness crafts.

Amy and Matt Allen, along with The Matt Allen Real Estate Team, have supported Palm Lake as a Partner in Education for several years. The real-estate company also provided ice cream and volunteered for an ice cream social with more than 500 people in attendance. Kindness crafts and activities were part of the evening’s events.

They have helped with afterschool events such as Kindness Rocks, in which children painted rocks and sold them.

“With the Matt Allen Real Estate Team partnership, we created many programs throughout the year that were focused on kindness involving families, students and faculty at the school,” Akesson said.

The Allens hosted a haunted house last October and collected more than $3,000 toward Palm Lake’s Kindness Fund. They appeared on Bobcat TV last week to deliver the check to the principal, James Weis.

“I love the stories of kindness where students connect and make friends with someone new,” Akesson said. “To me, it’s the little things of noticing others, including all students, and encouraging others with kind words and a listening ear. We have several classrooms with students who have autism. I love when I see our general education peers embracing them and playing with them on the playground, having fun together and not judging based on differences, celebrating those differences. In a world where you can be anything – be kind.”



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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