Maple Heights middle school wins national 'kindness challenge' award, beats out 654 schools

MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio - A Maple Heights middle school is being nationally recognized for the kindness of its students.

Milkovich Middle School was crowned the 2018 “Kindness Challenge” winners Friday at a surprise assembly for sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders just before they headed home for spring break.

Milkovich students beat out 654 other schools around the nation who participated in the challenge.

The award, from nonprofit Stand for Children, comes with major bragging rights, t-shirts, and $5,000 for the school to spend on spreading more acts of kindness.

So what earned them the honors?

Many, many large and small acts of kindness that showed students they care about each other.

It started with a “kindness shop” back in November.

The idea came from a student and consisted of rooms in the school stocked with very basic items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and underwear. Items that the kids and their families need, but may not have. The entire student body at Milkovich is on free and reduced lunch.

“And as soon as we finish one challenge because I thought it was just going to be one challenge, they’re like what’s next? And they kept staying on their teachers, saying, ‘We want to do more. We want to help in other areas,’” said teacher Jennifer Mahnic, who helped organized the kindness initiatives.

“It started with kids being really inspired with wanting to help each other,” Mahnic said.

And the students started seeing the changes themselves — helping each other out in the smallest ways.

“If you’re kind, it might change someone’s whole world,” said eighth-grader Lamarr Taylor.

Other kindness challenges included gathering canned goods for a local food pantry and charity basketball tournaments. The students weren't used to seeing inspirational posters with kids who look like them, so they made their own, using their photos and their own "kind" sayings.

“I’m so proud of the kids here at Milkovich and I’m so glad that they’re getting this national recognition because, you know, there’s so many negative things going on in our society and it’s so nice to see their faces associated with something so positive,” Mahnic said. “And now the nation will what we see at Milkovich Middle School.”

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