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Traverse Mountain Elementary introduces ‘Care Crew’ to spread kindness

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Megan Wallgren | Touriddu

Caring, kindness and connection are the goals of a group of students at Traverse Mountain Elementary. The Care Crew is a suicide prevention group made up of 115 kids who want to make a difference. The group, in its first year, is funded by the state for suicide prevention.

“The idea is to notice, to be aware of kids that might be alone or struggling and pull them out and connect with them,” said Koreen Humphries, school counselor and faculty advisor for the Care Crew.

Students in fourth through sixth grades were asked to apply to be on Care Crew at the beginning of the year. Humphries hoped for 40 applications, but received 150.

“That’s a lot of kids who feel like kindness and care are important and want to make a difference,” she said.

Humphries was impressed by student’s desires to help others and improve their school experience.

“I think it’s important for all Traverse students to feel kindness because if they don’t, they won't want to come to school,” wrote Care Crew member Maddi on her application. “They won't be able to learn and have good experiences.”

Another member, McKenzie, wrote, “I think it's important for people to feel kindness, care, and connection because everyone needs to feel loved and needed (even throughout other schools). We all need a trusted, loving friend.”

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The Care Crew meets weekly after school to plan activities and craft signs or handouts. It is led by Humphries and fifth grade teacher Raeann Hurst.

Recently, they had a guest speaker, Tom Ballard, “The Heart Rock Guy,” who shared his message of making everyone feel seen and cared for by giving out stone hearts. He’s made and distributed over 100,000 heart rocks to promote suicide prevention. Coincidentally, Ballard recently gave a heart rock to the mother of one of the Care Crew students.

“It made the impact for them real. The mom was able to share first hand how it felt to get a rock,” Humphries said.

Impressed by Ballard’s effort, Care Crew students have decided to make their own wooden hearts to give out at school to those they see who might be lonely or need a pick-me-up.

More Care Crew plans for the school year include organizing activities for recess, linking the student body with a paper chain to represent acts of kindness, and a takeover of sticky notes filled with positive messages. Care Crew members also take turns sitting at a designated table in the lunchroom where anyone who feels they don’t have anyone to sit with at lunch can take a seat.

“I remember being the new kid at school, and feeling lonely. I don't want other kids to feel like that,” said Care Crew member Dot. Another member, Deeya, said, “I'd love to turn someone's frown upside down.”

Humphries said the Traverse Mountain Elementary administration believes that kids learn better in a place where they feel safe, connected and cared for.

“Care Crew will boost our academics as well as our social and emotional health,” Humphries said.

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Principal Karie Cooper said, “Traverse Mountain Elementary loves having a Care Crew! We know that children who are struggling to manage their emotions cannot learn. We prioritize both academic and social emotional skills and strategies with our Tiger Code: Respect, Self-Mastery, Resilience and Compassion. We are thrilled to have a club that allows students to serve as Kindness Ambassadors.”

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