Students at Place Bridge Academy celebrated A Day Without Hate on Friday, April 26 after a week of activities designed to promote respect and kindness. Though the event is only in its first year, students were enthusiastic about participating.
“It’s important because you don’t know what someone is going through at home or at school, and being mean to them could make it worse,” said Lavina Winn, an eighth-grader at the school.
School psychologist Aleksandra Matysek, who organized the event, shared that students and adults were strongly impacted by the day. “We had an assembly with our middle-school students and invited them to share their stories. It was emotional, but empowering – our students have been exposed to violence in their neighborhoods or home countries. Unfortunately, violence has become the norm, which is why this day was so important to honor. Taking the time to do activities to promote kindness and unity is so important, and we definitely saw that this week.”
Activities leading up to Friday included wearing a white ribbon, signing a banner and commitment cards and creating kindness chains where students wrote compliments to others and taped them to make a paper chain that would hang in the school’s hallway. Students talked about why it was important to be kind to others.
“Having a safe environment, where people are nice and kind, then you feel accepted,” said seventh-grader Assetou Coulibaly. “That makes it easier to want to come to school.”
This event was especially meaningful for the Place Bridge community, which serves many students from other countries and works to create a culture where diversity is accepted and valued. Through a parent ambassador program, a translation app and native language tutors, Place Bridge shows a respect for diversity that allows students to feel connected.
“We show our students and families that we honor them by making them feel part of the community,” explained Brenda Kazin, the principal at Place Bridge. “We make sure our community has a voice and access to legal help, job placement services and other resources they need.”
Place Bridge uses greetings, affirmations and a social contract with students and staff to help everyone feel seen and safe, which helps students thrive.
Fourth-grader Juan Mercado-Ayala explained, “At Place Bridge, we work on following the social contract, which means having integrity. That means treating people kindly. And we have lots of adults here who work to keep us safe.”
The diversity of the school allows students to make connections based on what many of them have in common: they were once new to the country.
“Our students have a strong self-image and come to us with an asset-based mindset. They’re Somali, they’re Nepali, they’re Spanish – and they’re proud of that. Because of our culture, students aren’t afraid to take risks with learning the language,” said assistant principal Roma Pitt.
Sometimes language isn’t a barrier at all. Pitt shared the story of a new student who’d arrived several days prior and showed up at the office with two new friends.
“The new student spoke no English and the other two spoke very little, but somehow they were able to understand that the new student needed a backpack. They spoke the common language of kindness,” said Pitt.
Under Superintendent Susana Cordova’s leadership, DPS is streamlining our focus on Equity, Instructional Excellence and Collaborative Teamwork, so that every school becomes a place where students are affirmed for who they are — while being challenged to excel. Learn more at superintendent.dpsk12.org.