SHREWSBURY, Mass. – As part of Oak Middle School's "Changing the Conversation" program, a group of boys took it upon themselves to encourage their peers to make a difference.
When eighth graders Stan Pearson, Doug Fisher, Tim Smith and Nathaniel Auzenbergs heard that the girls in the school would be having a program called "Finding Kind" their first question was – what are we doing for the boys?
Assistant Principal Ann Wentzell and Counselor Kristen Minio encouraged these boys to come up with something.
On Jan. 12, this group of four friends presented all of the boys within the school their film, featuring clips from "The Blind Side," "Pay it Forward" and "A Small Act" and encouraged them to discuss the idea of making a difference.
"Most understood that these acts were small, but that they made a big difference in the receiver's life," Fisher said.
These boys also wrote a "Making a Difference" pledge and asked all of their peers to sign it and come up with ways that they would help improve the community.
"They said they really liked how it was set up and it did make them think," Fisher said of the response from his classmates.
Following the program, these boys said they are seeing a difference among their classmates.
"I've seen kids holding doors for classmates or teachers and saying kind words, like please and thank you to the lunch ladies," Pearson said.
Pearson also said that the conversation has continued within the school following the program.
"There have been kids I don't even know coming up to me and telling me how cool that was," Pearson said. "It has sparked a lot of long conversations."
The boys also said they thought it was helpful that this program was created by them for their peers.
"They said it was more like a face-to-face conversation with us, rather than something adults are telling them to do," Fisher said. "It was something their fellow peers wanted them to do."
Included in their program, inspirational speaker Paul Phillips spoke last Thursday night to the male students and their fathers about being a better person.
"He talked about how he'd rather have good people close to him," Fisher said of Phillips, who is also the Head Basketball Coach at Clark University. "For example, he said when picking his basketball team he looks at character, grades and skill, in that order."
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Sawyer said this was a great conversation that has come out of the anti-bullying plans put into place in the school district last year..
"I think it's another example of ways the schools are being proactive in helping students build character," Sawyer said. "This is how you build on the already-great school culture."
Administrators said this has also been a great experience for students to gain leadership experience.
"It feels good to participate in the community," Pearson said. He said he and his friends like to take a leadership role, but never expected this project to get so big.
The girls program is set to take place later this month and concentrates on kindness. The showing of "Finding Kind" will take place on Monday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. Parents are asked to refrain from bringing children younger than the seventh grade.