Upper Iowa University students inspired to ‘be kind’

Among the Upper Iowa University students and faculty encouraging everyone to “be kind” during the holiday season and beyond are (front, l-r) Owen Johnson, Seneca, Illinois; Adan Quintana, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Ryan Steffan, Cresco, Iowa; Tate Murty, Fountain City, Wisconsin; Nick Jarka, Poplar Grove, Illinois; Steven Diderrich, Sullivan, Wisconsin; (middle) Shae Campbell, Norwalk, Iowa; Kaitlyn Adamov, San Diego, California; Lincoln Arndt, Mapleton, Minnesota; Riley Snyder, North Liberty, Iowa; Wyatt Van Sickle, West Union, Iowa; Kaden Brenneman, Williamsburg, Iowa; Haley Ramberg, Saint Francis, Minnesota; Maleah Lichty, LaPorte City, Iowa; (back) Associate Professor of Exercise and Sport Studies Karla Gavin, Sawyer Huss, Combined Locks, Wisconsin; Blake Thiesse, Trempealeau, Wisconsin; Seth Gretillat, Reinbeck, Iowa; Jackson Bates, Andover, Minnesota; Gary Grosjean, Truckee, California, and Conner Ariss, Dubuque, Iowa.

Upper Iowa University Associate Professor of Exercise and Sport Studies Karla Gavin and her first year seminar students have embraced the “Be Kind” movement, which was started in Gavin’s hometown of Glenwood, Minnesota, by 97-year-old Margaret Pederson.

“With everything negative that we see every day, my students were excited to have the opportunity to exhibit something positive,” Gavin said. “Each of the students now wear ‘be kind.’ T-shirts and in doing so, they have joined Margaret and her quest for spreading kindness and compassion.”

Associate Professor of Exercise and Sport Studies Karla Gavin (front, far right) is pictured with additional UIU students encouraging everyone to “be kind” during the holiday season. The students are (front, l-r) Kenzie Squires, Maynard, Iowa; Malik Belvin, Cocoa, Florida; Tara Dryml, Independence, Iowa; Chelsea Scott, La Porte City, Iowa; Daishaun Felton, Miami, Florida; (middle) Laith Smith, Wapello, Iowa; Isaiah Garman, Marion, Iowa; Kaitlyn MacCharles, Onalaska, Wisconsin; Eric Ihde, Garnavillo, Iowa; Trevor Shutter, Tomah, Wisconsin; (back) Cameron Hart, Davenport, Iowa; Kmaris Kirkwood, Dekalb, Illinois, and Ashley Stitzer, Parkville, Missouri.

Screen Print Plus in Glenwood created and has sold over 1,400 of the shirts across 20 states and in Australia. In addition, Gavin noted that Glenwood has hosted multiple, successful community events as part of the grassroots effort.

Among the special activities was in response to Rachel’s Challenge, a nonprofit organization created after its namesake, Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first person killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. After her death, many of the surviving Columbine students shared with the Scott family about the profound impact Rachel’s simple acts of kindness had on their lives. The family then soon started Rachel’s Challenge.

In respect to Rachel’s story and the organization bearing her name, Pederson started a finger-knitting chain to represent a “chain of kindness.” With the help of other community members and students, a mile-long chain was created and later paraded around the gym of a local high school.

“Like Margaret and Rachel, our students realize how one simple act of kindness can lead to better things,” Gavin said. “A person can only imagine what would happen if each of us would remember this every day.”

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