East gets recognition for kindness

By Amanda Tonoli



East High School’s Tree of Kindness gained recognition from a company across the country after its students spoke to The Vindicator about what it meant to them.

The Tree of Kindness, a 5-foot-tall “tree” sporting positive words on its felt leaves, is part of a Destination Imagination project, an educational program in which student teams solve open-ended challenges and present their solutions at tournaments, said teacher and DI coach Jeanne Constantino.

Constantino said Sprigeo, a company in California, reached out March 7 – the day after The Vindicator printed the story about the tree – naming the students involved “heroes.”

Julie Sorenson, vice president of customer service at Sprigeo, conducted a recent Skype interview with the students and Constantino as part of the Heroes Project of Sprigeo.

“Hero: One who shows great courage. The Heroes Project celebrates people who want to create a world where everyone feels safe to be who they want to be,” according to Sprigeo’s website, sprigeo.com. “The first group of heroes is a small collection of everyday people who chose to do something incredible, often with support from their friends and family. The courage they have demonstrated is deserving of recognition.”

Sprigeo will have an edited version of the Skype interview with East students on its website within the next few weeks.

Constantino said she and her students are touched that Sprigeo considered the students heroes.

“I think it’s great [the students] are going to get acknowledgement because they’re doing something about anti-bullying,” she said. “I think this helps them take pride in what they do, and it is our hope this message gets passed along not only to our school, but communities elsewhere, too.”

“We want to inspire them to make their own tree and to write positive words to it,” said student Alexis Palumbo.

For their tree, the team earned first place in its category, Project Outreach, at the DI regional competition last weekend at Youngstown State University.

Student Mesha Geathers enjoyed the competition.

“We all came together, and it was so uplifting,” she said.

Alexis said bullying is a problem in schools across the country. Each team member has been touched by bullying either as a victim or as the friend or family member of a bullying target.

“If you see something, don’t just try to avoid it,” she said. “Stand up for yourself, for what you believe is right.”

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