Blue Springs South High School principal Charlie Belt sent two students from each school club to a leadership conference during the 2017-18 school year.
It was inspirational for those who went, including arts teacher Carlee Martin. She sat down with the students who went, and they came up with an idea for a new club – one centered around kindness.
That’s when they started the Renaissance Club, in which around 20 members inspire other students to get through tough times and help them feel welcome while at school.
“They all had a passion to make our school a better place,” Martin said. “It was just more than sitting around and talking about it. We had to do something.
“There was a motivational speaker there that talked about being a good person and spreading kindness and making people feel welcome. We we came back to talk about it; each student took something different away from it. All of them wanted to implement that.”
The club is in its second year, and when school started in August, they held a surprise assembly to help the students feel welcome.
“Usually they just sit and listen to rules all day,” Martin said. “So we had a surprise assembly, and we turned out the lights and threw beach balls. We wanted them to be excited about school and feel welcome.”
Added Renaissance Club member Reagan Roberts: “I thought it was cool because no one knew about it. It was a cool change. They thought it was going to be a boring assembly. We had music playing and had some games to play, too.”
During the school year, members of the club go to restrooms throughout the school and paint inspirational messages on the walls and mirrors. They also make signs and meme posters to put up in various places to give students a little bit of a laugh. They also leave drawings and messages on the sidewalks. One of the messages was “You be you.”
“We want someone to be able to go in there for more than just using the restroom,” Martin said. “If someone is sad and looking at the mirror, we want them to see those messages like ‘You are beautiful’ and ‘You are loved.’
“We also put memes up about funny things regarding finals, so they are not so stressed about them. We also put coloring pages out to help them stop, color and calm down.”
On Fridays, after school is out, club members give students high fives in the hallways as they are leaving.
“We do that so they get that connection when they leave on Fridays,” Martin said.
And all of the work the club put into making a difference at Blue Springs South has resulted in positive feedback from the students.
“A lot of selfies have been taken by our messages,” Martin said. “Students started asking us, ‘Will you paint on our bathroom next?’
“The club is so diverse. It has the quiet kid, the jock, the smart kid – the club has a little bit of everything. It brings us all together because we all have a good soul. That was a requirement to be in the club.”
Two of those students – Isaac Hummel and and Roberts – said they joined because they wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I like to have the opportunity to make that difference and see that difference at my school,” Roberts said. “That’s probably my favorite part about it.”
Added Hummel: “I wanted to do community service, and the community that’s closest to me is my school. This is a club that directly gives back to the community that’s more important to me.”
And sometimes part of making a difference is just engaging in conversation with someone who might be having a bad day, Roberts said.
“If you know someone is having a rough day, you just say, ‘Hey! How are you doing? Do you want to go to this after school?’ It’s just about branching out and being nice and kind to everyone.”