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Ecker Hill students have simple message: Dude, be nice

Leadership class aims to change school’s culture

Students in the Ecker Hill Middle School leadership class have been encouraging students to be kind to one another all school year. Their efforts were set to culminate with DUDE. be nice Week, a celebration meant to highlight the importance of being kind.
(Bubba Brown/Park Record)

After witnessing a rise in bullying last school year at Ecker Hill Middle School, teacher Patricia Munoz and her leadership class set out this year to do something about it.

“We wanted to do some kind of anti-bullying campaign, but we wanted to change the outlook,” she said. “Instead of being a negative look on what is wrong, we wanted to highlight what is right with the school.”

All school year, they’ve undertaken initiatives to bring a kinder, more inclusive culture to Ecker Hill. Their efforts were set to be celebrated with the school’s inaugural “DUDE. be nice Week,” designed after a national campaign from the apparel line DUDE that aims to inspire young people to do good.

Starting Friday, Dec. 9, and running through the end of this week, students were to participate in a number of events aimed at highlighting the good deeds done in the school every day, and to encourage students to do more of them. On Monday, for instance, students were scheduled to take selfies with groups of classmates and describe the groups in kind words. On Wednesday, they were to don ugly sweaters to illustrate that, while they may be wearing something ugly, they’re beautiful inside.

Throughout the week, students in the leadership class were slated to go to classrooms to teach a lesson about the importance of kind words.

Munoz said “Dude. Be nice Week” and the related events are important because it validates the hard work the students have done to make Ecker Hill a better place.

“This makes everyone in the school recognize the value (doing good) has and embrace it,” she said. “It’s a week to celebrate what we’ve accomplished, how far we have gone and how far we still have to go to bridge some of the barriers that we have.”

Lucas Infurchia, a seventh-grader in the leadership class, said everyone in the class was excited to revel in the progress they’ve made this year. And they were hopeful the message of “DUDE. be nice Week” would sink in for their classmates.

“I think it would be an amazing thing if people would stop getting treated badly,” he said. “When I was in sixth grade, I was bullied a little bit and I went through it the hard way. I’m hoping this year that it’ll help other kids so they don’t have to do that.”

Munoz said the efforts of the leadership class to create a kind atmosphere have “changed the school completely,” even before this week’s events. One notable initiative has been visible all throughout the school, where green folders are placed in common areas. When students see someone do something kind, they’re encouraged to fill out a slip of paper describing the act and place it in a folder.

The slips are gathered each week, then displayed prominently in a window on the school’s second floor.

“It’s been amazing,” Munoz said. “The packets get full every week. We didn’t know how it was going to be viewed, but the kids have really embraced them.”

Emma Greally, another student in the leadership class, said watching the folders fill up each week and seeing the kind actions students have done has been encouraging.

“We hope to bring together students of different ethnicities and cultures,” she said. “And we hope that we can get rid of the negative feeling and emotions and replace them with positive and happy feelings.”

For Munoz, who has often seen the divide that can occur between students of different ethnicities, seeing students throughout the school embrace an attitude of inclusivity and kindness has been an affirmation of everything she’s tried to teach them.

“For me, it’s amazing,” she said. “I’ve been teaching for a long time, and I’ve mentored a lot of kids. I have a lot of kids come to my room that have dealt with difficult things — not feeling included, or even Latino kids who may feel out of place. What has happened is, through this, there has been a unity in the school. To me, this is what needs to happen for the culture of the school to change. So this has been amazing.”


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