Lessons On Kindness From A Queens First Grader

BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Staff Writer

Isabella Taxilaga, a Flushing resident and first-grader at PS 122, has been named the Grand Prize Winner of the Be Kind People Project’s national student writing contest.

The Be Kind People Project is a national nonprofit organization with the dual mission of spreading teacher appreciation and equipping students with relationship and character development tools. Each year, the Be Kind People Project holds a national writing contest that allows students to apply what they’ve been learning in their classrooms and through character education programs, according to Lisa Hartsock, CEO of the Be Kind People Project. This year’s contest topic was “Kindness is the Key to Unlocking Good Character.”

Isabella Taxilaga won the Be Kind People Project’s national student writing contest.  Photo courtesy of the Be Kind People Project

Isabella Taxilaga won the Be Kind People Project’s national student writing contest. Photo courtesy of the Be Kind People Project

Taxilaga’s winning essay is entitled “Kindness Is…” and focuses on the small but meaningful acts of kindness that permeate daily life. Hartsock says the essay is special because it teaches that “the positive attribute [of behavior] is key in everything we do.”

The contest judges were also struck by a drawing that Taxilaga included with the essay, which “had a great message” of positivity, Hartsock said.

According to Principal Pamela Sabel, kindness is a year-long lesson at PS 122. She said that “promoting social-emotional well-being for children and adults is one of [the] school goals,” incorporating teaching tools such as community service projects, food drives, group projects and Student of the Month awards. Taxilaga wrote her winning essay in Stephanie Lupoli’s first grade class and cites her teacher as a model for everyday kindness.

For her part, Taxilaga said that since she wrote the essay, she has been thinking about kindness “all the time.” Isabella’s mother Tania Feliciano added that her daughter is “very conscious” of daily acts of kindness “as a result of the process of writing the essay.”

PS 122 has been working with the Be Kind People Project for two years, and Principal Pamela Sabel has been satisfied by the results of the collaboration.

“The children who are most closely involved with the program certainly do show they understand and try to implement the best of the principles of the Be Kind People Project. We all benefit,” she said.

Taxilaga’s grand prize essay, as well as other winning essays, can be read online at www.thebekindpeopleproject.org/2014-writing-contest-winners.html.

Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, jstrawbridge@queenstribune.com or @JNStrawbridge.