Promoting positive behavior

Krystle Wagner • Dec 7, 2018 at 2:00 PM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Upbeat music played as Spring Lake High School students jotted down positive messages Thursday afternoon.

The students were participating in a celebration of The Chalkboard Project as they replaced hurtful words with positive ones on their classmates’ pictures in the school’s hallways. In the evening, the community had an opportunity to see the project.

The celebration was the second phase of the The Chalkboard Project, which is aimed at promoting empathy and changing negative perceptions.

Leading up to Thursday’s celebration, more than 500 SLHS staff and students had a picture taken while holding a chalkboard with a hurtful word or misconception about them.

Sophomore Julia Clover said she believes the celebration will set a tone for the rest of the year. Clover, who has been involved in the project since it was launched in 2017, said it’s been an eye-opening experience to see that everyone has a word that impacts them negatively, even if they don’t show it.

Senior Spencer Kosc said it was interesting seeing what words affect his peers. He said it’s something he didn’t previously think about, and especially if the words are something that wouldn’t personally offend him.

“It’s a pretty cool idea overall,” said Kosc, 17.

Senior Bailey Strasler said she got involved in The Chalkboard Project to be involved in something positive. She said she now has more empathy for students around her.

In addition to sharing positive qualities about their peers, SLHS students could purchase key chains or bracelets with a new positive word for $5. The proceeds will go to teen mental health efforts.

This is the second time SLHS students and staff participated in The Chalkboard Project, which art teacher Jennifer Gwinnup started as a way to unify people and help them see that everyone deals with something. The project has since been rolled out in other area high schools, including Grand Haven, Fruitport, Mona Shores and Whitehall.

Gwinnup said it’s been exciting and fun to watch the project grow.

After the first installment at SLHS, senior Hannah Klein said she noticed a change in the school’s culture and the way people treated each other. She said it has been a special opportunity to see people share their stories and be vulnerable as they have their picture taken with words that hurt them.

“I love this project, and I can’t wait to see where it goes,” Klein said.

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