White Brook Middle School students in Easthampton aim to show power of kindness with Pay it Forward Challenge

Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016

EASTHAMPTON — Students at White Brook Middle School aim to show just how strong the power of kindness is as they attempt to spread good deeds around their school, the city and the world.

The Pay it Forward Challenge, which was launched after assemblies on Tuesday, hopes to create a worldwide chain of random acts of kindness starting at the Easthampton middle school. Students, faculty and staff have been asked by after-school social advocacy group Free the Children to each touch three different people with kindness during this week.

“We’re really challenging our school to do this,” said White Brook English language arts and social studies teacher and Free the Children adviser Judith Breier. “And then we’re even going to do the world.”

The group’s members delivered a presentation on the project at two school-wide assemblies Tuesday morning. There, they defined a random act of kindness as “a selfless act performed by a person or people who wish either to assist or to cheer up a person or people.”

While the idea of a spark of kindness spreading from the Pioneer Valley around the world may seem like a lofty goal, two students did the math to prove it’s more attainable than some might think.

Eighth graders Hanna Wauczinski and Alyssa Varney were asked by their advanced algebra teacher Tracy Poulin to crunch the kindness numbers.

They determined that if all 560 White Brook students and faculty spread kindness to three different people on Tuesday, 1,580 people would be touched by kindness. If that pattern continues, 7,280 people would be affected after two days — nearly half the population of Easthampton.

In four days, the kindness would reach 67,760 people and after two weeks every person on Earth would be impacted.

Though they’re good at math, the girls agreed that the problem that involved the law of exponents was “stressful.”

“Our calculator wouldn’t go high enough,” Hanna said.

Alyssa said that the enormous numbers involved in the calculation “broke a website.”

“It was an act of kindness just to help with this,” Alyssa added.

There are some caveats though — in order for the math to work, no one person could be touched by kindness twice, and all of those touched by kindness would have to pass it on in the same day to reach Earth’s 7 billion people within 14 days.

The White Brook group that organized the program is a local chapter of Free the Children, an international organization that aims to empower youth through service programs.

Breier founded the Easthampton chapter three years ago.

“We work locally and we work globally,” she said.

Last year, for example, they donated 57 goats to women living in Kalthana, India.

The goats, at $50 each, were purchased through Free the Children’s resources “on the ground” in India, Breier said.

They raised the money at bake sales and other fundraisers. Upon hearing what the group was raising money for, some bake sale patrons went without cookies and donated $50 for a goat.

Seventh grader Alice Wanamaker, 13, said the worldwide reach of the group is one thing she likes about it.

“Usually we start on a more global level,” she said. “I think it’s really nice to start here (with the kindness program) and to think it might go all the way around the world eventually.”

Halia Murphy, 12, another seventh grader, said she is unsure how many people will be inspired to participate.

“I think it’s cool how many people can get touched in 14 days,” she said. “It depends on how many people participate.”

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.


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