Wednesday, September 28, 2022
HomeEducationHKISHKMS: Allies in Diversity

HKMS: Allies in Diversity

By Kathy Brown.

The Allies in Diversity is a group of 44 eighth grade students at Haddam Killingworth Middle School who meet once a week to discuss ways to improve the school climate there by increasing acceptance and decreasing mean spirited behavior. Rebecca Degnan, a guidance counselor at HKMS and Haddam resident, started the group last year in an effort to change school climate with the students themselves leading the change. She came up with the idea after “many sleepless nights wondering what I could do to help our students be kinder to each other.”

The students come up with a majority of the ideas. In January, they received the Arthur Director Annual Leadership Award at the CAS Middle Level Leadership Conference. If a student has an idea, they find other members of the group to work with as part of a committee. Then they write a proposal, and they have a meeting with Dr. Olsen, the HKMS Principal to pitch their idea to her. So far, all of their ideas have been approved. “[Dr. Olsen] has been very supportive of the group so far,” said Rebecca. “Our teachers and other staff have also been very supportive, which is a huge part of what makes this group so successful.”

The Allies pair up as mentors and mentees to be a friend or “older buddy” to these students. Some Allies have also gone out to recess with the fifth graders to act as role models and mentors. The Allies started a positive social media campaign on Instagram: hkmsupstanders. They highlight positive things that the students are doing, as well as positive messages and comments. The Allies also made hundreds of friendship bracelets, which they then offered for sale so that friends could “send” one of the bracelets plus a positive message to another friend in the building. The donations will be given to an anti-bullying organization.

“I joined Allies because I noticed the bullying and forgotten kids and how the allies made a huge difference in spreading kindness, helping kids, and making the community a better place for all students,” explained Ava, an 8th grader. “I like being able to make a difference in our community.”

When asked what she liked best about being part of the group, Libby, another 8th grader, responded, “We get to discuss topics that most teachers/people feel uncomfortable talking about.” She also explained, “I learned that you should never look down on anyone, and judge people not from their outside features, but look at their inside characteristics instead.”

Bella, also in 8th grade, said she wanted to be a part of the group “to help make a difference in my school and to help people that feel invisible/misunderstood.” She said that she learned “that words hurt and you need to be aware of what you say to others because most of the time you have no idea what is going on in people’s lives.” She finished with, “Just be kind.”

On Wednesday, March 28, 2018, the Allies held a “Day of Silence” to represent what it feels like when you are not accepted or respected by your peers. The Allies wore white t-shirts that day that had “I feel. . .” statements on them, such as “I feel ignored” or “I feel alone.” Throughout that day, teachers reinforced the message with short activities and videos chosen or designed by the Allies, about the importance of acceptance.

“I am really proud of everything that they are doing in our school,” said Ms. Degnan.

Photo by Rebecca Degnan.

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