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Making a Difference with a ‘Crazy Idea’

Students Spread Encouragement with Sticky Notes

Emily Rosbury wasn’t so sure the plan was such a great idea the first time she wound her way down the upper-grades hallway armed with her precious sticky notes.

But the sixth-grader at Kenowa Hills Middle School, along with classmate Sidney Breen, decided they had come way too far to surrender to a case of nerves.

With a folder full of sticky notes containing phrases specifically penned by the girls to brighten their classmates’ days, Emily and Sidney forged ahead with their mission. They paused mostly at lockers but added the sticky notes to the occasional book bag.

“It was scary at first to go down the seventh- and eighth-grade hall,” admitted Emily. “We wondered if people might judge us or think that we were just little kids. But then we saw them going through the notes and they liked them, they thought they were funny. We saw others looking at them and we felt special.”

The idea to offer words of encouragement both to students that Emily and Sidney knew as well as strangers came after the girls read the book “Frindle,” where the main character, Nick, works at spreading positive words.

Emily and Sidney decided to incorporate the story into their own lives. They approached Principal Abby Wiseman with the idea of writing positive sayings on sticky notes and posting them in places students couldn’t miss.

The notes aren’t complicated. They are as brief and to the point as “Believe in yourself,” “You’re perfect just the way you are,” “You’re cool” or “Have a nice day.”

The goal is simple: bring a smile to a classmate’s face.

“We want to get to everyone we can,” Sidney said. “And we want it to be more than just random.”

Emily Rosbury places a positive thought on a school locker
Emily Rosbury places a positive thought on a school locker

Showing a Passion to Help

The girls conjure up the notes in their free time and can make and post up to 50 in a single day. They’ve recruited a couple friends to help and would like to add more.

Emily and Sidney said their principal quickly came on board with the idea, provided there were no discarded notes to pick up and as long as students seemed to embrace the idea.

“We hadn’t seen anyone do this, but if it became a problem we’d change it,” Emily said. “We thought it would be a good idea to find kids who were having bad days and that we could help them. We’ve had fun with this.”

Wiseman said aside from helping students who were struggling with a bad day, she liked the idea because it drove home at least one specific idea constantly fostered by school systems.

“It showed initiative,” Wiseman said. “They had the idea, ran it by their teachers and sold the idea to me. They walked out (of their meeting) excited and came back the next day with the notes. I think it speaks to the level of passion they have to help.”

The girls have devised new ways to spread their message. They’ve attached notes to posters they designed that resemble American flags. Students can pick off the messages and post them wherever they believe can do the most good.

The girls say the feedback to their plan has been positive.

“They’ve said it shows how something so little can make a big difference,” Sidney said.

Added Emily, “We were just two crazy girls with this crazy idea. And we decided, ‘Okay. let’s do this.'”


Kenowa Hills Middle School

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