A new group is going the distance to accentuate the positive in fellow Boiling Springs High School students.
“Walking around last year in the ninth grade, it opened my eyes to some of the things people struggle with,” said Ari Swartz, founder of the MILE Club.
“It made me feel sad seeing some of the things people did to each other,” she said. “The bullying ... the picking on people. ... The climate was too negative.”
Swartz could have stayed quiet and kept it to herself, but she had ideas that began with a wall of sticky notes to Motivate, Inspire, Love and Encourage youths who have a hard time coping.
But when she took that suggestion to Principal Joel Hain, he challenged her to think big and go outside the box. This prompted Swartz to start a student group.
That was fall 2016, and since then, MILE Club members have been posting notes and original artwork on walls, lockers and restroom mirrors with the goal of boosting morale and overall school spirit.
“You can’t be negative in high school,” said Swartz, now a sophomore. “You have to have the positive. If you don’t have the positive, you’re going to get stuck in one area thinking you are worthless and can’t do things. You need to succeed and to pass and make friends along the way.”
Swartz already had a knack for lifting up people in speeches in front of her basketball team or in kind words spoken during gym class. “I notice the little things,” she said. “I go through the halls saying ‘You look good today,’ and ‘You did great on that test.’”
Small gestures can have big results. As the kindness caught on, other students joined the MILE Club to Motivate, Inspire, Love and Encourage their classmates. The club has about 35 members in all four grades.
Chloe Page, a junior, got involved last year because she really liked the message behind the club and the girls who started it. Ari Swartz started the club with the help of her identical triplet sisters Chloe and Hailey.
“I believed they would start something great,” Page said. “The message is to spread kindness and goodness throughout the community. This is important because a lot of people need that kindness in their lives.”
Like Ari Swartz, Page noticed the bullying and petty drama that takes place in high school. She has seen how the MILE Club has had a positive impact, especially on its members, many of whom were victimized by such behaviors.
“There is more positivity in this school,” Page said. “It’s definitely spreading.”
Sophomore Jamie Nickel got involved in the MILE Club last year. “I really like the message and what they were trying to start,” Nickel said. “I think it helps the student body with any type of mental [health] issue. They really try to let people know it’s worth it.”
In the nurse’s office, club members put up an oversized poster of the type of illustration that can be seen in the pages of adult coloring books. The goal of the poster is to help relieve the stress of students reporting to the nurse for an injury or sickness.
On a wall nearby are inspiring quotes on how to cope with anxiety. “We want to help them to calm in the moment until they can regain the proper thought process,” Ari Swartz said.
She said club members also participate in “random acts of kindness” where they select students from the yearbook and tape cards and notes of encouragement to their lockers.
For the holidays, club members were planning to hand out candies with notes attached saying, “Here is some encourageMINT” or “You deserve a compliMINT.”
There are activities within the club itself to encourage its members to interact with one another and brainstorm ideas. Club members recently used a resource period to make gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, cake frosting and candy.
Math teachers Jeff Schwartz and Steven Karloski are co-advisers of the MILE Club. Over time, the group has become more inclusive in the way it reaches out to the student body, Schwartz said. He said there is talk among MILE Club members of launching a special drive in January to collect hygiene items for the homeless.