BMS students use words on Kindness Tree to send out positive messages

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In a matter of seconds, everything can change.

The students at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell know this all too well, after one of their own came to school armed with a shotgun earlier this year.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Trying to make middle school a kinder place, Belen Middle School eighth graders created a Kindness Tree to tell their fellow students they are respected and appreciated. Pictured, in front, from left, are Sami Carrillo, Paige Anderson, Gracie Griego, Olivia Cordova, Taylor Matsu, Loretta Chavira, Kyle Garcia, Patrick Orozco and Isaac Trevino; in back, from left, are Taylor Baca, Jania Thomas, Felicity Chavez, Nino Mora, Haley Whitaker, Ally Aragon, Anessa Varela, Garrett Gallegos, Thomas Wisneski, Nic Vallejos and teacher Michelle Starnes.

After two students were shot by a fellow classmate in Roswell, Michelle Starnes’s Belen Middle School students had questions.

“We had some really deep discussions about what happened, why it happened,” Starnes said. “And this was something they came up with, something they wanted to do.”

The “this” is the Kindness Tree, a construction paper creation growing on the back wall of Starnes’ BMS classroom.

Starting with a sturdy trunk of brown paper, the branches spread out, holding red and pink heart-shaped leaves carrying positive messages to all the students in her class.

The writer of the kind note is anonymous, but the messages are not. They are sent to other students and range from compliments on small things, like a particularly good hair day to kudos for overall kindness.

The inspiration for the tree came from Starnes’ eighth grade social studies class.

“We all wanted to be part of something positive and have success together,” said student Loretta Chavira. “So we decided to write something good about everyone.”

Every day, when her students come to class, they check the tree, Starnes said.

“You could see the kids were disappointed when their name wasn’t up there,” she said.

And her students saw it too.

“They would watch, and if someone wasn’t up there, they put them up the next day,” she said. “You could just see it change someone’s whole day.”

Jania Thomas added that seeing her name on the tree as well as being the one to add a name just made her feel better.

“It shows that everyone respects each other here,” she said.

The other students used the word respect a lot when talking about the project, along with words like “positive” and “kind.”

Haley Whitaker distilled the middle school experience perfectly.

“Middle school has a lot going on,” she said.

So it’s important for her to have something positive to put out to her fellow students, Whitaker said.

Seeing your name on the tree makes you feel good about yourself, said Patrick Orozco, and it’s about making others feel good as well.

“It lets me know someone found something good about me,” he said.

Paige Anderson said seeing your name on the Kindness Tree makes you feel “worth something,” and Kyle Garcia said it gives you a way to show someone you care.

And it is a way to show their fellow students that the little things they do, day-to-day, matter, said Thomas.

“People do get hurt and it’s nice to know people noticed you,” she said. “Maybe it’s something about how you did your hair or makeup. It lets you know it’s not a waste of time.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.