Joliet Township students recognize good deeds
By Tony Graf email@example.com April 1, 2012 8:18PM
Debbie Burroughs, student assistance coordinator, (right) hands junior Caroline Hinkle, 17, (left) a token as part of the national "Random Acts of Kindness" effort at Joliet West High School Monday, March 12, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Kindness at JT
Here are stories of kindness at Joliet Township High School, from people who have received or given a Youmanity token.
“I received my token today in my advisory class during school. The man who gave it to me had smiled and said: ‘You are special. Here is my act of kindness toward you!’ He hands me a gift card to Subway. That really made my day! Thank you Aviva for coming to Joliet West!”
“I gave my token to my older sister. The reason for this is because every single day she makes an effort to make sure she gives everyone living in our home a hug. Even though it’s a small simple act, it makes a difference.”
“This girl dropped her bookbag on the floor, and I picked it up and handed it to her.”
“I was running late in chemistry, and my friend helped me put a few things away so I wouldn’t be late.”
“This token was given to a very important person who has made a huge difference in my life. He is part of the reason I became a teacher.”
Updated: May 3, 2012 8:03AM
JOLIET — Kindness is the best currency.
In March, Joliet Township High School students distributed more than 800 Youmanity tokens to people in their lives, each token recognizing an act of kindness.
The tokens have serial numbers that can be registered into a website. That means students can trace a token’s path — and the stories of kindness that accompany it — across the country.
“It’s cool because you can see how far it goes,” said Eric Lindstrom, a student at Joliet Central. “I heard about one that went to multiple states with 40 passes. I think that’s crazy.”
“The numbers don’t surprise me. Any time you challenge a JT student to show kindness and compassion, they always seem to prevail,” said Mark Peterson, student assistance coordinator at Joliet Central.
Both Central and West campuses are participating in the Youmanity program, sponsored by Aviva, a life insurance company.
“The real idea is, if I were to do something kind for you, I give you a token and say, ‘Pay it forward,’” said Debbie Burroughs, student assistance coordinator at Joliet West.
However, students in Joliet also are giving the tokens to people who have been kind to them. And that has produced an impressive exchange.
“We’re glad about all those uses,” said Chris Jones, chief marketing officer for Aviva.
Kindness is an important goal of the Friends of Rachel Club at Joliet Township High School. The club carries on the legacy left by Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the Columbine High School tragedy of April 20, 1999.
Rachel’s Challenge, an initiative of the club, promotes several goals: Look for the best in others, eliminate prejudice, dare to dream, set goals, keep a journal, choose positive influences and start a chain reaction. Another important club message is: Kind words and actions equals huge results.
Burroughs, faculty sponsor of the Rachel’s Challenge program, was doing research for a presentation. She was looking for ways to express the ideals of the challenge.
“I wanted to do something where kids have a tangible item,” she said.
She found the Youmanity program on the Internet and contacted Aviva. The company has responded eagerly.
“Not only have they given us the tokens, but they’ve flown out here a couple of times, and they’ve given us three flip cameras at each building so we can document the kind acts,” Burroughs said.
Shanise Tabb, a student at West, was assigned to make a presentation at an assembly, showing students how to use the tokens. She also walked a Herald-News reporter through the online registration process.
Tabb is a member of the No Name Club, which strives to prevent drugs and violence. Burroughs thought that Tabb would be a good student to receive a token and pass it on.
“I’m a really open person. Even if you kind of shy away, I like to talk and get you involved. I don’t like to see anyone left out,” Tabb said.
Caroline Hinkle is a student at West. Her mother, Suzette Hinkle, works as a secretary in Student Activities at Joliet Junior College. The daughter planned to give her mother several tokens to distribute. She also planned to honor her mother personally with a token.
“I’m going to give my token to her because I want to thank her for being the strongest person in my life,” Caroline said. “She’s gone through a lot of surgeries in the past few years, and she’s shown a lot of strength. I just want to thank her for being the rock in my life.”
At Central, Lindstrom gave his token to Cathe Ghilain, a retired student assistance coordinator. Ghilain was the sponsor of Central Against Substance Abuse and other prevention clubs.
“I sent my token to her because she’s done so many kind things to keep kids on the right path,” Lindstrom said.
Katie Wallis, a student on the pom team at Central, gave her token to Detective Ken Simonich of the Joliet police, who is the school liaison officer at the Central campus.
“He goes to every basketball game. He’s always there, so I feel like he supports us,” Wallis said.
“I think it’s a really great program because the kids get to recognize each other and be kind to each other. It’s a life lesson that will be very beneficial to our students,” said Jennifer Lemberg, a guidance counselor at Joliet Central.
With the digital tracking, Aviva wanted to make sure the idea had staying power, Jones said. The company wanted people to see how the chain reaction of kindness continues.
This fits well with the goals of Rachel’s Challenge in Joliet. And it fits with the company’s philosophy, Jones said.
“The foundation of this idea, Youmanity, is the approach Aviva has taken to the way we want life insurance to work. It’s this philosophy we have of putting people before policies,” he said.
“And that shows up in many different ways from our business. We started this cause last year with employees and agents, and now it’s starting to branch out to people who do business with us, to other people who are like-minded,” Jones said. “This idea of the random act of kindness is one of the ways we put people first. We’re excited the students in Joliet have latched onto this idea and want to take it forward.”