High school student asks adults to take the kindness pledge

FERGUS – There’s nothing random about being kind, says Abby Graham.

It takes education, thoughtful action and, for the Grade 12 student at Centre Wellington District High School, she hopes it will also involve signing a pledge.

Graham is a member of the student action committee at the school, the group that organized a student unity march in November in response to acts of violence and transphobia at the school.

Graham said the situation at the school “got me thinking about where hate originates. It doesn’t come from the students themselves.

“It’s coming from parents or grandparents or caregivers. Young people are learning it from adults.”

And so she has initiated a kindness campaign, asking individuals, businesses, community groups, and especially community leaders, to pledge to be more kind and inclusive.

The pledge asks those taking part to commit to:

  • doing their best to make their community more safe and inclusive;
  • taking responsibility for their actions and doing their best to educate themselves for the better of others;
  • speaking up for, but not over, others;
  • standing up against transphobia, homophobia, racism, ableism, sexism and xenophobia; and
  • spreading kindness above hate and creating a more inclusive community.

“Anyone can take the pledge, but the biggest target is adults. They need to take the lead on this,” Graham said.

She launched the campaign on Jan. 19 and by Jan. 21 already 257 individuals, five groups and 24 businesses had taken the pledge.

“So many people have reached out to me, it’s been overwhelming really,” she said.

“So many students want to help out and make our school a better place and that’s incredible too.

“I can’t say there’s been a huge change yet but at least morale seems a little higher.”

Cyndy Moffat Forsyth, executive director at The Grove, said she reached out to Graham when she learned of the kindness campaign.

“We’re all about empowering youth to make a difference and here we have a youth with a vision. It was an easy and obvious partnership,” she said. “Abby is such a dynamic young leader.”

The Grove had already prepared “allyship” guides in conjunction with the University of Guelph, and Moffat Forsyth shared them with Graham for her project.

With help from some local communications firms, there’s a website, kindnesspledge.ca, where the allyship guides, general information and pledges can be found.

Moffat Forsyth said the guides have information on how to be an ally to marginalized populations, like newcomers to Canada, people with disabilities, Black and racialized communities, 2SLGBTQ+ people and Indigenous people.

“How important is this? Extremely,” Moffat Forsyth said.

“Abby is taking a positive step to help us recover from the pandemic. And she recognizes this will have a beneficial ripple down effect for youth.”

Moffat Forsyth agreed with the age-old parenting wisdom that children don’t always listen to what their parents say, but they watch everything their parents do.

“So read, educate yourself, sign the pledge and share the fact you’ve taken the pledge. And then be kinder to your fellow human beings,” she said.