Celebrating kindness

Northside Elementary School Principal Lexi Vanden Heuvel (far left) and Assistant Principal Anne Stanislawski (far right) with the Northside Elementary School students who took part in filming a recent Kindness Retreat.

Nine years of Kindness Retreats in Sun Prairie's schools is a lot to celebrate.

Since 2011, more than 5,665 Sun Prairie fourth grade students have gone through the program, learning to be kind to others.

Sun Prairie High School Student Julia Knudten said the Kindness Retreat made a big impact on her when she was a fourth grader. Reflecting back on it, she said it helped her make new friends, and taught her to be positive.

“The subconscious message was don’t be an awful human being and that in itself is very empowering,” Knudten said as she showed a video she made of a recent Kindness Retreat at Sun Prairie schools.

The Sun Prairie Rotary Club held a celebration at the Colonial Club on March 10 to share information about the Kindness Retreats, listen to students like Knudten talk about their experiences, and to thank donors who contributed money to the program.

Students who participate in Kindness Retreats have come away with profound experiences. Kids who once bullied others make amends and kids who were anxious of conflicts found a way to resolve them and feel better about coming to school. 

The program, run by Youth Frontiers Inc., focuses not just on preventing bullying, but going a step further to encourage kids to act with kindness every day. Kids are also taught to solve conflicts when they arise.

Northside Elementary School students Kevin Packard, Jillian Brown, Leah Divney and Aisha Kunjo shared a video they created, at the March 10 celebration, so Rotary Club members could see what goes on at a Kindness Retreat.

The Sun Prairie Rotary Foundation has played a big role in bringing Kindness Retreats to the Sun Prairie Area School District. The Rotary, Sun Prairie Education Foundation, and local businesses and organizations have helped raise more than $150,000 to keep the program going. 

“It is quite an accomplishment and something to be very proud of,” Sun Prairie Rotary Club member Josh Kindkeppel said of the Kindness Retreats in Sun Prairie.

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