School counselor and youth advocate

Posted on June 28, 2018

Kayleen Schweitzer: A Calm Confidant



July’s Difference Maker influences hundreds of kids every year. Her calming voice combined with her listening skills makes her a trusted confidant for middle school kids at Eagle Valley Middle School. Kayleen Schweitzer is the school’s counselor and proponent for inclusivity and kindness. She, along with Principal Katie Jarnot, started ‘No Place For Hate’ this year. EVMS joins 1,600 other schools across the county in standing against hate.

“No Place for Hate is a self-directed program helping all of the stakeholders take the lead on improving and maintaining school climate so all students can thrive,” explains the Anti-Defamation League’s website.

With the help of the No Place For Hate student coalition, Kayleen created three different events or programs to encourage all kids to participate and to share kindness. The middle schoolers signed a pledge—those who wanted to; no one was coerced but it signaled a kick off to a great year. And beyond reminding students to be kind, it created an environment where everyone belongs.

“I feel like we gave kids a place to belong,” Kayleen said. “Kids that are passionate about making a change, they can make a greater impact than I can. telling kids in my classroom lessons about bullying they’ve heard it so many times needs to come from their peers. Do we have a long way to go? Of course every school does, but we are heading in the right direction and each year it will keep going.”

There were three activities students could participate in: Pirates’ Peak where child’s father painted a mountain, (called Pirates’ Peak), and the students created a “blizzard of kindness.” Each student got a snowflake and they wrote on a snowflake something kind they planned to do, which could have been something small like opening a door or saying hello.

The next activity was Random Acts of Kindness where youth became Kindness Agents, completing a list of secret kind acts.

The final activity went beyond the school doors, parents and friends accepted the “Disconnect to Reconnect” challenge—going five days without social media or technology. Kids, and parents, took the pledge and reflected on their time away from their devices.

“Kids did notice that they had more time. Some even said that though it was hard, they realized how much social media controls their life,” Kayleen shares. The parents also noticed having more time and being more present—something that is hard to do when ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ beckon. Kayleen believes that having the parents commit to the challenge along with the kids had a big impact. 

Outside of school, the No Place for Hate group participated in one of our Eat Chat Parent events: there is nothing like first-hand experience from youth. “I was so impressed with the ‘No Place For Hate’ middle school speakers at our April Eat Chat Parent ‘Be Kind” event,’ ” said Carol Johnson, community education manager. “The kids were well spoken and confident with their message of the importance of inclusion. They are poised to make a difference in our valley and are fortunate to have Kayleen leading them.”
 
Kayleen envisions the program growing, maybe it will become districtwide. But she knows no matter what, giving kids a place to speak, listen, be heard and be kind matters—and will create change from within the school walls. Thank you, Kayleen for being a catalyst and change maker.




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Eagle River Youth Coalition - Making Youth a Community Priority
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