She’s all about spreading kindness and has delivered on her “Campaign for Kindness” platform with a three-point plan: add Buddy Benches to school playgrounds, the Kindness is Kool blog, and designating the 13th of each month as Kindness Day.
Practical, actionable, low budget. Campaign promises that can be delivered!
But first, Kid Governor? You’re wondering, what is that? The brain-child of Brian Cofrancesco, part of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network and Head of Education for Connecticut’s Old State House, the Kid Governor is an elected office held by a 5th grader as a result of a democratic process. The program has also provided 5th-grade teachers with curricula to teach students about democracy, the three branches of government, being a citizen, voting–you know, our old civics lessons.
Participating schools nominate one student. If more than one student is interested, a primary is held. The students research an issue and create speeches for the primary.
Then the selected student develops a campaign video, and 5th graders around the state vote to select their Kid Governor.
This inaugural year, four girls and three boys campaigned. They were from public schools along with one Monetessori, and their issues included gang prevention, standing up to bullying, access to technology, and school spending. Serious stuff. There’s also one about how “recess matters,” advocating for more free time for over-scheduled kids. Right on!
After watching the campaign videos, I can say the issues and solutions were compelling. It was a tough choice. I imagine Elena’s exuberance and the actionability of her ideas pulled her through. About 800 of the state’s 1200 5th graders voted in the election. What a turnout! Democracy in action!
Oh, and the Kid Governor got inaugurated at the Old State House last November, swearing an oath and all, with the state’s adult elected officials in attendance.
This year, 15 cities got involved, and Brian is working hard to grow participation now that the pilot year has been so successful.
I met Kid Governor Elena Tipton at the New Haven Free Public Library, where she presented her three-point plan to a full house of parents and children. Her poise and ease in front of the room no doubt has been built with a year of traveling around Connecticut; “the funnest” part of being Kid Governor, she said, is “getting to meet people across the state,” made easy with her mom as driver.
Tipton’s plan has led to Buddy Benches in ten schools so far. This concept comes from Christian Buck, a student in Pennsylvania. The idea is to spread kindness through inclusion and building friendship. How does it work? Go to the bench, and ask someone sitting there to play or to talk and walk. The concept is simple but effective for counteracting isolation and bullying.
Kid Governor Tipton’s blog has attracted an impressive 1800 views. In it, she gathers kindness stories from students around the state. Her blog also extends her Campaign for Kindness with 10 new suggestions each month, posted on the 13th, which as you now know is Kindness Day. Here are the 10 suggestions for August 13:
- Do a chore for your family without them knowing!
- Let someone go ahead of you in line!
- Donate food to you local food pantry!
- Read a book to your younger siblings!
- Make someone else’s bed!
- Say “thank you” to service worker!
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen!
- Bring some play dough to a preschool class!
- Make a thank you card for your librarian!
- Visit your local retirement home and visit a resident!
Pretty good, eh? Which will you do?
While at the library, Elena engaged the children there with an art activity where they expressed their acts of kindness.
Brian told me that the program helps children know they “have a voice and a responsibility.”
Elena comes from an East Hartford school which uses inquiry-based learning. She’s a member of the Leadership Team at her school. Her mother told me her interest as she moves to middle school centers on politics.
This program fosters civic engagement and empowerment. I got to watch it work! Suggest the idea to your state today!
Here’s Elena’s campaign video.