Friday, December 13, 2013

Sandy Hook HOPE

Almost one year ago, I created this blog because I feel very passionately about positivity and I wanted to share that passion with others.  After working on the initial project proposal, many students at my school began to speak up and explain how strongly they felt about the need for kindness and positivity in their lives and in the world and their work became a district wide movement that we refer to as HOPE.  
Initially, a lot of the work was inspired by the collective emotional reaction to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School because so many students and teachers wanted to send hope and love to Connecticut.  As you can see from the other posts, the students' ideas expanded and changed, but their mission has remained connected to the universal ideas of kindness, acceptance, hope, and love.
In honor of tomorrow's anniversary, we would all like to remember the 26 Sandy Hook angels by encouraging everyone to perform acts of kindness and we would also like to send a collective message of HOPE to the families who posted this request online -

In order to do this, our high school will be having a Kindness Contest! 
Faculty, staff, and administrators will be taking notice of student acts of kindness throughout the week next week and will be rewarding them with a ‘Kindness Referral’ to show that the PV Bears care.  Students can also submit pictures and stories or nominate friends by emailing or by using the tag #sandyhookhope when they post online. 
The completed referral forms will be collected and entered into a drawing at our annual school wide Volleyball Tournament on Friday December 20th.  The winning student will receive a breakfast with friends, the teacher who nominated them will have coverage for their duty for an entire week, and all stories and pictures will be compiled and submitted to the Newtown Kindness Organization in honor of the lives lost last December.
What can you do to spread and encourage kindness this week?  
Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below and don't forget to share your stories and pictures online so others can do the same! #sandyhookhope 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Children are Our Future

I believe the children are our future.
Teach them well and let THEM lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be...
~ Lyrics by Michael Masser and Linda Creed ~

I was never really a huge fan of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All"...until a remarkable group of students and teachers demonstrated what is possible when we teach the children well and let them lead the way. Ever since the students and staff of an entire school district came together to promote their vision of HOPE, the 1980's hit has become one of my favorite songs. Now, every time I hear it, it reminds me to be grateful for so many things. Not only did the students' passion and determination remind me how I used to be, but I also had the privilege of learning alongside them and together we were able to see the beauty and feel a sense of pride.

This year, in response to a project proposal that was the initial post on this blog, my colleagues and I challenged our students to “be the change” they wish to see at school and in the world. So far, they have gone above and beyond anything we ever imagined. The students began their own movement to create and sustain positive change and they refer to their message as HOPE. In just a few short months, they successfully embodied their positive messages while sharing them with all students throughout the entire district, they have also reminded a lot of people about the true purpose of education, and the best part is that they are just getting started!

Basically, the students are leading the way by encouraging their peers of all ages to embrace the qualities that make them “awesome” as individuals and to realize that those same qualities can be leveraged to create unity as a group who wants to help others and make the world a better place. They did not form a club or set up any sort of specific guidelines for participation, but they collectively created a positive voice for the student body and their message was heard loud and clear. This blog and the embedded links highlight some of their stellar accomplishments, so I hope you can take a few minutes to learn more about these amazing kids because our world is full of so many others just like them!

They are our future.

They are the change we all want to see in the world.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dream Big and Be Your Best Self!

For the past few weeks, our positive posse has been taking HOPE on the road and the resulting phenomenon has completely reinforced and expanded the intent of my first blog post.  If you have been following this adventure, you know that we really wanted to show the students that they could make a difference by leveraging their unique passions and abilities in order to help others and they have not only learned that lesson, they have been teaching it to other kids!

Very diverse groups of students in grades 9-12 have gone on trips to each of the four other buildings in our school district (two elementary schools, an intermediate school, and a middle school) to teach and spread their message of HOPE.  Although the specifics of the lesson plans changed accordingly for each level, the students were able to keep the big ideas the same.  The big questions that the high school students asked at each level were -

  • What makes you awesome?
  • What does hope mean to you?
  • How can you help others?
  • Who encourages you?
Consequently, each student in grades K-8 has had an opportunity to celebrate what makes them unique and awesome as individuals and to think about how they can use their individuality to help create unity by helping others.  The ideas of individuality and unity were enhanced with gratitude as everyone was inspired to thank the people who were encouraged them and, most importantly, everyone involved was able to have fun while learning a lot.

One of the most remarkable things that I learned as a witness on these trips was the importance of trusting and believing in all of the students.  Their positivity and compassionate approach to younger students made everyone feel important and appreciated and those affirmations will continue to have an impact on everyone who was involved.  Interestingly, a reciprocal relationship developed between the high school students and the younger students because they were able to learn from and inspire each other.  I am so grateful that I was able to see the magic that happens when an 11th or 12th grader colors with an Kindergardener, when a freshman who was recently bullied dances to inspirational lyrics with a 7th grader, or when a 10th grader gets down on their hands and knees to paint or color with sidewalk chalk.  One high school student student even told me that they think that everyone should take some time out to reconnect with their inner child and remember the good, simple, and important things in life!  I agreed.

Personally, my favorite lesson this week came from a 3rd grader who announced in a very matter-of-fact way that the best way to help someone who is having trouble is to tell them to "Dream big and be your best self!"  After I finished marveling at the fact that the best advice I'd received in a very long time came from such an unexpected place, I realized that the wise little girl was only reminding me what I already knew - these kids are the change that our world needs and I'm so happy to that my friends and I are able to help them on their journey!

Please continue to follow this adventure, share this blog with teachers, parents, and students who want to help make the world more awesome, and leave us some love in the comments below!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Infinite Nature of HOPE

It has been a little while since I've shared an update with our audience outside of PV and that is because the students' vision of HOPE has continued to grow and take on a life of its own.  My entire positive posse of friends and colleagues learns from these amazing kids every day and it has been one of the most exciting and fulfilling adventures of my entire life!

So far, they have been featured on two different local newscasts that you can watch here:

Aside from the commentary from the local news and this blog, students, teachers, parents and administrators have all given their voices to the “HOPE” movement and many individuals have really done a stellar job summing up the magic. 
A senior boy, Jack, succinctly explained the concept to one of our service clubs; he said, “HOPE isn’t a club, a class or a project – it is something that everyone has and all you have to do to get involved is figure out what it means to you.  Once you know what hope means to you, you just have to use that to help others and make things better”.  Another student also explained why they couldn't create a step-by-step manual for getting new people involved because they felt that specific instructions would limit the possibilities, so they just keep encouraging everyone to reflect and determine what works best for them.
Rocco Seiler, an administrator who has believed in our vision and our mission from the beginning also explained the bigger picture when he said, “This initiative isn’t just a school thing and it is affecting more than just our local community.  People are living it… Everyone wants HOPE and positivity in their lives regardless of the situation that they are in!!!”.  
Sarah Rusnock, a teacher in our middle school recently sent a message that said, “I really think the HOPE brings the Pleasant Valley community together.  It is something that we all share and it is what we all have in common.  We all want the best for ourselves.  Staying positive, we are able to achieve those results.  We all have to help each other in order to help ourselves.  I always felt PV lacked community due to geography and culture, but HOPE connects us.” 
Although these sentiments really reflect the big ideas, the heartfelt thanks from students and parents and the overwhelming support from administrators at all levels, teachers, and support staff have provided more than enough testimony that the smallest ideas and actions can make the biggest difference. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

What is all this "HOPE" stuff?

Since so many people keep asking me for more details about my recent posts and the colorful t-shirts I always seem to be wearing, I thought I would share my answers from a recent interview...

Can you describe the symbolism behind the t-shirts that were made?
I believe the students might be better spokespeople, but the basic premise of the t-shirt is a willingness to create and sustain positive change. The symbol that replaces the “O” stands for a willingness to create positive change and there is a piece missing out of one finger as a reminder that there is a void that each person can fill. The infinity symbol is a part of the “E” because the students do not want this to be referred to as a project because projects end and they would like their classmates and friends to continue to “be the change” that they wish to see in the world because hope, love, and happiness are truly infinite...If you are actually more interested in an explanation of what the shirt means and not the specific symbolism, that answer is a little different. Since the shirt is so symbolic, it can mean a wide variety of things and that was the intent because it allows each person who buys and wears one to really think about what hope means to them while reminding them to be the change.

What are your thoughts on the new group Positive is Powerful?
First, I need to clarify that there really is no group (although I am happy that this catch phrase is a reference to my blog title which I got from my friend Rocco's bracelet). Students from almost every club are starting to get involved as well as students working on projects in various classes and a few students who just heard about it from a friend or teacher and want to help. The best way that I can describe the student reaction and involvement is to refer to it as a movement, but more than anything, it is really still just an idea.

Can you tell me a little bit about what this group is about?
Basically, the students who are involved are about making PV, the community, and the world more awesome. Many of the students involved really agreed with the messages in Kid President’s Pep Talk and they want to use their own unique interests and abilities to “give the world a reason to dance.”

What do you want to see this club achieve?
I want the students who are involved to get more students, teachers, and people in the community involved so that they can all support one another in achieving any goal that helps them express love, hope, and compassion for themselves and for other people.

Who came up with the idea to form this group?
Honestly, there were so many people heading in this direction simultaneously, I don’t think anyone can take credit for being the catalyst. However, I can say that the idea wouldn’t have grown and the movement would have started without a lot of very diverse students who all felt very passionately about the need for a positive change and who knew that they would need to “be the change” if they wanted others to believe in and join them.

Why do you want to spread the word about being positive?
You can learn the details about my idea on my blog at, especially in my first post from January entitled “Be the Change” where I reference the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but the main reason that I want to help more people be positive is because positive energy has changed my life and the lives of my closest friends for the better in a lot of significant ways. I believe it helped my husband beat Stage IV cancer, it has helped me create and maintain an amazing life, and most importantly, it is really the only way to counteract and overcome all of the negativity in our world today.

How do you stay positive?
Usually when people ask me why I smile all the time and why I am always so positive, I say that it’s because I have so much to be happy about in my life. Interestingly, the people who know me well know that I have endured quite a few tragedies and overcome a lot of challenges and adversity in my life, so they also know that I passionately believe that happiness is a choice we make. Every day I wake up and I have two options - I can choose to be positive or I can choose to be negative. I choose to be positive, live with gratitude, and love with everything I have and when you make a choice like that, a perpetual smile is easy to maintain :o)

If you are interested in learning more, buying a t-shirt or getting involved, please feel free to contact me... or just go out with a smile on your face and be kind to everyone you encounter ♥

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Send a HOPE-ing Hand

After watching the hope and love spread through the student body at our high school, I am so excited to share another update about the next steps on this phenomenal journey!  Now that the majority of students are on board and enjoying the momentum of this adventure, they have decided to share their positive energy with the adults in their life by letting them know how much they have made a difference!  Starting this evening, all students and alumni are being encouraged to send HOPE-ing hands to the adults who have encouraged them and given them HOPE.  Here is the picture and message that is now going around Facebook and Twitter:

"::ATTENTION ALL PV ALUMNI::The current students are in the midst of an exciting adventure and we want all of YOU to get involved! Basically, they started a grassroots movement to spread hope, love, and kindness and we thought all of you might lend a HOPE-ing hand. If a teacher or any person at PV (or any person in your life really) made your life better, please tell them! It would be cool if you could create a personal message by tracing your hand and writing what hope means to you and/or by saying how that person gave you hope or made you feel loved. If you can't mail it or get it to school, just take a picture and send it or post it and I'll take care of the rest! Thank you!! ♥"

Next week, students are also preparing to take their message and their passion for helping others to our middle school and the rest of the schools in our district and they are adding a lot of their own unique pizazz!  The Hope t-shirt sale is going incredibly well and tomorrow students will be able to wear their shirts to school!  Here is a little explanation of the shirt for those of you who were wondering about the symbolism:

Please stay tuned because I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of the amazing shift that is occurring in my school, in my district, and in the world!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

H.O.P.E. Have Only Positive Expectations

When I wrote my first blog post, I definitely did not envision myself adding many follow up posts, especially because I didn't want my original post and project idea to be missed.  However, the magic, excitement, hope and love have grown in so many awesome ways that I have to share a few more of the great things that are happening...

The students are still spreading their positive messages and their actions are incredibly contagious!  Last week, student representatives from various clubs and organizations stood up in front of the entire faculty to share their experiences and their vision for future projects and events.  Aside from being impressed that they chose to speak in front of all of their teachers, their heartfelt gratitude and expression of compassion truly embodied the essence of their movement.

Next Tuesday night, they are planning some great activities for the district wide Night of Unity and I'm sure that event will warrant its own post.  So far, they are planning to show Kid President's "Pep Talk", play Britt Nicole's song "Gold", and have an activity for students to create and wear crowns that will say "I'm worth more than gold!"  While the students work on making crowns, parents and community members can sign Jon Gordon's Positivity Pledge (  Finally, students will be on hand to sell HOPE t-shirts (which can be seen in my profile picture), share information about the service organizations and projects that they are a part of, AND remind everyone involved to have HOPE.

I love my job and my life and these children really ARE our future - I am pleased to report that they have been taught well and they are leading the way! :o)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Amazing Things are Happening!!

I am so happy and grateful to report that I wasn't the only one thinking about leveraging people's passion and talent to spread more love and hope in the world!  After my initial blog post, the students in my school district got to work right away and while they were busy creating, the rest of the world was too!

Some of the magic happening at PV in the past week...

  • Students have created individual projects for various classes that embody messages of hope and love and they have used their individual interests and talents to show their classmates what they can do while allowing them all to feel the hope and love.  So far, students in English class at the high school have danced, sang, created artwork, developed video games, made food, and shared personal stories and pictures and I can't wait to see what other projects pop up in other classes like science and social studies!
  • Students have started an entire initiative to bring the message of hope and love to the rest of the school and the rest of the district (with a little help from #kidpresident) and they don't want to stop there either!
  • Students and advisors from multiple clubs and organizations (SADD, SGA, Key Club, Leo Club, and Diversity Club to name a few) have decided to work together with hope and positivity as a shared goal because they realize that there is more than enough awesome to go around.
  • Organic cross-curricular opportunities are emerging as students from English class run excitedly to their American Government class to plan out the best way to contact politicians to spread the word through government channels.
  • Students who have never been involved in a club, sport, or activity, are finding their voices and actively spreading the message of love and hope because this student-led initiative has no rigid structure or intimidating parameters.
  • Non-honors level students are excited about helping their honors level classmates with a year long project where they will raise awareness and funds for community organizations.
  • Teachers are giving meaningful assignments that allow students to do things like express biological concepts creatively or write letters "For Noah"
  • Community bonds are being strengthened as students decided to adopt a "Pay it Forward" mentality and regularly commit random acts of kindness.
  • My favorite part so far... Administrators, faculty members, and students are united with a shared vision and a shared goal that is infinite in regard to its potential! 

Some of the magic happening locally, nationally, and globally, so far...

  • First and foremost, I have to say that the momentum wouldn't be anywhere near what it is at PV without the amazing viral peptalk by Kid President!  Although I am sure that anyone reading this blog has already seen the video, I recommend watching it at least two (or two hundred) more times because he says the same thing I did, but in a much better (and easier to follow) way! <3
  • I can't give a shout out to Kid President without mentioning Rainn Wilson and one of my favorite books of all time Soul Pancake (Thank you Doug!).  If you don't have the book yet, you definitely need to buy it and you also need to check out the website because it is the mecca for positive and soulful messages on the Internet:
  • A local college student inspired over a thousand people to make Valentine's Day Cards to send love to Sandy Hook Elementary (which was one of my initial goals as well): 
  • High school student, Justin Bachman, is ORGANIZING a "Tolerance Fair" in northern Ohio!
  • An 11 year old boy expressing hope for the future through his passion for organic farming is raising awareness that could help take down a corporate titan that is perpetuating bad nutrition:
I know and believe that so many people, both children and adults, really do want to help make the world a better place and if one little blog entry and one little YouTube video can stir up this much "awesome" in one week, just imagine the ripple effect!  

Thank you for reading this, please keep posting ideas and connections, and make sure you go out and dance a little!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Thank you so much to everyone who has visited my blog this week!  I never imagined that I would have so many page views and I am so excited that people in other countries are interested in creating projects.  Although the original idea was inspired by a combination of tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and of triumph during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the overall goals of hope and love are universal and timeless.

The most exciting part of this project so far has definitely been the enthusiasm and excitement from the kids.  I didn't realize how deeply they feel the negativity that surrounds them until I saw how quickly they got involved with spreading the message and furthering my vision.  Original artwork and writing was created almost immediately, other social networking sites are being leveraged, and bigger plans are in the works for collaboration between clubs, classes, grade levels, and schools - all before many teachers and administrators even had a chance to organize something similar!  At the very least, this project will showcase the benefits of a student-centered approach and encourage more people to focus on their strengths and interests instead of their weaknesses and problems.

Please post any more great ideas as a comment on this page or email me at, keep sharing the link and the love, and don't forget to showcase your own talents - we ALL need to work on this together so that our children can live in the world that Dr. King envisioned all those years ago.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Be the change you want to see in the world!

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the the way things are going lately from negative attitudes at work to the negativity that is surrounding Sandy Hook Elementary.  I can't help but think of all of the amazing people with their unique talent and ideas who feel hopeless and sad, especially all of the victims' families as well as the brave students and teachers who are still in that little town in Connecticut who want to move forward. 

I have heard so many people and seen so many videos talking about how difficult things are going to be for them and how much they are going to have to struggle, but I know from experience that feelings of pity and sadness aren't very helpful in tragic situations. That was when I realized (with a lot of help from my friends and family) that the families, teachers, and students need to feel HOPE and LOVE - we ALL need to feel that! 

So, I thought a little project might be the best way to get collective happy thoughts and positive prayers into that community and into the rest of the world since it seems that every one of us needs to start looking at things a little differently. We all have special strengths and abilities and we are all capable of love.  Unfortunately, it seems that the focus is always on weaknesses and disabilities and everyone knows that negativity can only lead to more negativity.  

Since I have always encouraged my students to realize that they can make a difference because they have gifts, talents, and a voice of their own, I would like everyone to help me share one of my students' favorite assignments with as many people as possible because I know it is one small, but perfect way for every individual to shine in their own special way regardless of their age, race, religion, ethnic heritage, intelligence style, or physical characteristics. 

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

The world needs a few more dreamers, so I want everyone to create something to illustrate a positive aspect of their own dream.  This project has no parameters and no rubric - the sky is the limit!  Show the rest of the world what hope and love look like to you.

Step 1: In honor of Martin Luther King Day, the people who need to flourish at Sandy Hook Elementary, and any special people in your life who inspire you to celebrate life and unique abilities, 
I would like ALL of you to work on this project.  Create something any way that makes you happy - pictures, videos, music, poetry, dance, art, research, baked goods, clothes, technology, etc. etc. etc. - the possibilities are literally endless!!

Step 2: Spread the assignment to any teachers, students, professors, artists, musicians, churches, equality organizations, civil rights activists or just fun people that you know!

Step 3: Have FUN with this and feel the HOPE and LOVE <3

Step 4: Once you are finished playing, if you feel like sharing your magic and insight, post it as a reply to this blog, post it to your Facebook/Tumblr/Instagram page, tweet about it, email it to the people in charge, and/or just hang it on your fridge. 

#postiveispowerful #sandyhookhope