California Educator

January / February 2017

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E ducator Leon Lewandowski started a random act of kindness (RAOK) challenge in 2012. Each year since then, the Santa Barbara Teachers Associ- ation member has asked his combination class of third- and fourth-graders at Franklin Elementary School to do one RAOK every day for the month of April, and has broadened the effort with social media, writing assignments about what they learned, and even some friendly competition with other groups doing RAOKs. When he told this year's class, pictured at right, about the challenge, they wanted to do something big. e 25 students decided they wanted to assemble 25 big bags for home- less community members, filled with about 30 essentials. (e school is near Santa Barbara's main street, where many homeless congregate.) Students created a wish list of items for the bags, including tooth- brushes, toothpaste, healthy snack bars and hand-warmers, along with bigger-ticket items such as new sleeping bags. ey named the project "Sacks of Hope." "We chose this project because we felt bad about the homeless," says student Irvin. "So we had an idea about helping them. We came up with Sacks of Hope." Sacks of Hope is run by the students, though Lewandowki helps them solicit donations from local and national companies and run a collection drive at Franklin. e students are writing business letters this winter to ask businesses and other potential donors for assistance in reaching their spring goal. " What I find inspiring is that these kids, who don't have a lot, are motivated to help others who are less fortunate than they are," says Lewandowski. "We'd love it if other schools made Sacks of Hope in their communities as well." Research on students who volunteer and help others has shown that they learn respect, responsibility, compassion and kindness — soft skills that some experts say are more important to future success than hard skills such as reading, math and science. Volunteering also encourages civic responsibility among students, and helps them identify their own interests and talents. "I'm learning that one small thing can become a great big thing if you put effort in what you're thinking and what you believe," says student Aide. In Service to Others Young students learn kindness, and much more, with 'Sacks of Hope' "We chose this project because we can do something that can change the world." Follow the Sacks of Hope project at #SacksOfHope and #WatchUsSoar. To learn more, make a donation, or start a similar project, see You can read Leon Lewandowski's "Your Voice" perspective about the random acts of kindness challenge, which ran in the April 2016 Educator, at 53 January / February 2017 teaching & learning

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