When I was a sophomore in high school, I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Madison, WI for a student council leadership summit with a small group of my peers. At this event, a man named Brent who owned a company called “dude. be nice!” gave a speech which inspired us all in a really profound way.
On the drive back to Wausau, the student council advisor Jolyn and I began dreaming about how amazing it would be to bring Dude. Be Nice to our school. We wanted everyone to be as inspired as we were and to ultimately improve the culture at our school.
I dreamed of what I thought was really big for our own kindness week. At that point, little did I know, those dreams were infinitely smaller than the way my entire community would wholeheartedly embrace our dude. be nice initiative.
First, what is kindness week? Simply put, it’s a week dedicated to bringing acts of kindness to your campus every day of the week. The hope is that those small, daily practices will lead to a culture shift.
We decided to have the DBN Week at the same time as our Homecoming week so the school schedule was already set aside to do unique activities and every student could get involved. Neither one distracted from the experience of the other, but rather helped both gain momentum. It was incredible to see how excited my peers were about doing something kind for others.
Each day of homecoming week, we had a different group of people from the school recognized so that every person connected to Wausau East would be honored in some way.
Here’s how we organized our dude. be nice Homecoming Week:
- Monday: A sticky note with a kindness quote on every student’s locker
- Tuesday: Cookies delivered from a local bakery that included a thank you note for all teachers
- Wednesday: Thank you cards + gift cards donated by a local ice cream shop for all of our custodial staff
- Thursday: During lunch, we did a shout-out for all of the foodservice assistants and had all of the students cheering for them. We gave each food service assistant a box of cupcakes donated from a local bakery as well.
- Friday: We went BIG!
At the very end of our homecoming week, we had something called the “Games Assembly,” which was a huge event that included music, skits, artwork, sports competitions, and more. We chose to implement our big surprise during this event so that everyone could be a part of it because it is a full school event.
For this event, we chose to recognize Jolyn Cook, our student council advisor. It was her last year at East before moving to Madison for her husband’s new job. We told her that we were doing it for another staff member and that as the person with the most authority it was her job to distract him outside of the gymnasium until it was time.
When they left, we got everyone in position. We shut off the lights and had everyone shine their flashlights, and created a human tunnel for Jolyn to run through with a chair for her to sit in and a donated gift basket at the end. Afterward, the choir performed for her and we all told her how much she meant to us.
Finally, we were able to give her a surprise visit from her husband who had already moved to Madison. She hadn’t seen him in weeks, and we got him all dressed up with flowers for her. The whole experience was so powerful as it got every single person from our school involved.
One of our biggest wins was having the entire community involved! Our whole community was incredibly engaged and genuine about our kindness activities. Having community shirts allowed the message to grow so much bigger than it would have on its own.
We were featured on the news, on radio shows, and on social media! Some local companies even had their own DBN shirt days! The shirts are still super popular in my community today.
So, for any ambitious student council members or ASB directors out there who want to make kindness a movement and not just an activity, here are my best tips for bringing dude. be nice to your Kindness Week!
Top 7 Activities for a Successful Kindness Week:
Create a DBN club!
- After having such a great experience/buy-in for our initial activities, we ended up creating a club at our school so we could do monthly kindness-themed events. Even though I graduated high school in 2018, the club that I created still exists today!
Reward random acts of kindness!
- A lot of the kindest moments go unnoticed by most. Schools could create some kind of forum where people can “report” random acts of kindness that get noticed and what that person did to be kind. A winner gets picked monthly and they get recognized in some way, even if it’s small.
Find ways to include all students.
- There may be students who want to participate, but can’t due to things such as financial barriers. For example, we did random drawings for anonymous students who couldn’t afford a DBN shirt to win one. We also made dressing in school spirit an option for people who didn’t have a shirt.
Get your community involved!
- Reach out to local businesses and see if they want to participate! This was a super fun way for us to get the community involved. The business owners were more than happy to donate to something positive in the community, and our staff got some really great goodies!
Partner with other schools!
- This was incredibly helpful in terms of funding. It made it way more affordable as we split the costs. And I was able to make some new friends at my rival school!
Keep it simple!
- Not everything has to be big or publicized. For some people, a heartfelt card and some flowers are the perfect way to recognize them.
Create something visible that’s permanent.
- Do something that makes sense for your school like a mural or some kind of ever-changing kindness board! Something that serves as a constant reminder of the message that you can bring with dude. be nice.
If you’re looking for your kindness week activities to stick around all year, I encourage you to build in dude. be nice.
DBN is a permanent part of Wausau now in a very real way. There’s a club that still exists at Wausau East, and the Wausau DBN shirts are being worn all across the country!
That’s one of the best things about our community and the impact of the dude. be nice movement. Everyone obviously loves the shirts because they’re cool and represent our city, but they embrace and live out the message.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
By Emma Busig, Senior at Marquette University, Wausau East High School Alumni, DBN Club Founder