Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Middle schooler incentivizes good deeds

July 4, 2012


Last school year, a superhero walked the halls of West Middle School.

True, she can’t leap buildings in a single bound, and feats of strength are out of the question — she’s 5 feet 2 inches tall and looks all of 90 pounds.

But her goal of spreading kindness is worthy of any masked crusader. And she does have a secret identity — that is, until now.

Her name is Mary Krieger, a soon-to-be-freshman at Free State High School next year. When you see her, she looks like a normal teenager, with blue eyes and a shy smile.

What makes Mary heroic is the program she created and funded in her last semester at West, called Kindness Counts. The program provided awards and $10 gift certificates through Downtown Lawrence Inc. for teachers to hand out to students they saw doing acts of kindness. The idea was simple: give students incentive to do good and they will do it.

“I was hoping, if I did this, then when I did see the change kids, would start doing nicer things,” Mary said. “I did get to see that a couple of times and see the smile on the kids’ faces when they got one of the awards.”

To fund the program, Mary told her mother, Jackie Millin, she didn’t want presents on her birthday. She just wanted to put whatever money her mother would have spent on her birthday into the program.

“We don’t really have much money, but even at that I can already look around and see that already I have too much stuff that I don’t really need,” she said. “I wanted to try to give back and give to someone else.”

Millin saved the money that normally would have been spent on a birthday cake and fried chicken for the family. Mary is the youngest of six siblings.

Millin also emailed friends and family about the program, and soon, after a $5 donation here and a $10 donation there, they had raised $600.

Mary then took the idea and proposed it to her principal.

“It was really a neat idea,” said West Principal Myron Melton. “She did a really nice presentation and was also very formal.”

Melton said Mary stressed the kindness she saw within the student body and how she wanted to reward such kindness instead of focusing on students’ negative behavior.

But the program had a catch — not only was Mary using her own money to fund it, but she didn’t want any recognition for the idea and wished to remain anonymous.

The situation surprised her principal.

“I said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ and she said, ‘Yes this is what I want to do.’”

Mary said she wished to remain anonymous because she didn’t want to ruin the program by having others think it was for attention.

So the program began in March, and Melton and Mary kept their secret.

It wasn’t always easy. She had to keep quiet when friends won — she even won an award herself — but secrecy is what she wanted.

Mary’s wish made it hard to track her down for this story. The Journal-World received a tip from a neighbor that mentioned the program. After a short conversation, Melton agreed to call Mary’s mother, and Millin agreed to talk to her daughter about it. Mary agreed to the article, again with a condition — that it stress she didn’t want the recognition.

After a 30-minute conversation with Mary, it’s easy to see that the recognition didn’t matter. She said she had seen bullying going on at the school and had been bullied herself.

Her reward was seeing good behavior improve the school.

“It’s been a huge morale boost,” Melton said. “We are just so proud of her.”

Added Mary, “When I did get to see the change, it was probably the best feeling that I ever had. Because that was one of the things I wanted for my birthday, and I would actually get to see the difference and see the kids with the smiles on their faces. It just put a smile on my face.”

She said she hopes the program will continue at West.

Mary might not have wanted recognition, but she has earned it from Mom.

“I don’t know that you can put that in words to have a daughter that is that amazing,” Millin said.


equalaccessprivacy 5 years, 10 months ago

The give- to- get philosophy often becomes offensively self-serving. Too bad it's being introduced at the middle-school level. Kindness is in the the eye of the beholder and has to be based on mutual respect and understanding. I despise the type of lower Midwesterners who go around with the attitude" Just trying to be nice" or "Just trying to help." Obviously, they are not succeeding. Good intentions too often lead right to hell if they are clueless/ mindless, which describes many folks in KS-- at least the rude ones who mess with other people. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Most Kansans are giving themselves much too much credit for their own competence and kindness when they aggressively approach complete strangers. They are terrorists, not helpers. It's the stuff of agoraphobia( fear of being in open spaces) to have to deal with such frightening ignorance on a regular basis. Kindly back off, and mind your p's and q's.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for being so offensively self-serving in your sociopathic opining about what is offensively self-serving. "Kindly back off, and mind your p's and q's."

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

You are one bitter mess. Try as you might, you can't pass off your hatred and loathing as civilized behavior.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 10 months ago

"The give- to- get philosophy often becomes offensively self-serving...Most Kansans are giving themselves much too much credit for their own competence"

Ironic Post of the Day!!!

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 10 months ago

I would love to see some specific accounts of how abused you are. People often help me and I am more than grateful for that help. I was having a gout flareup, was in a wheelchair and thought I could push myself from the bus stop up to the store. A young man around fifteen ran forward and asked if I needed help. I sure did, I told him. That little rise became like a mountain to me. Also, I notice that international students take it for granted that they are going to help an older person. I find it charming and I am not too proud to admit that I do need help. So, I hope people do not read you and start to be afraid to help anyone.

Liberty275 5 years, 10 months ago

Why are you being mean to a young person that has gone far out of her way to help effect a change she sees that is needed by society? Sure, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and she may be doing the wrong thing, but that doesn't mean you need to denigrate a selfless project by a well-intentioned middle school student.

Next time you feel like picking on someone, save it for me.

gphawk89 5 years, 10 months ago

Question from an earlier article: "What are you looking forward to about 2012?" equalaccessprivacy's post: "Getting the heck out of KS. The worst decision I ever made. Have been severely abused and have PTSD thanks to all of the yahoos and southern-justice dishonesty here." Well, EAP, it's over six months later and apparently you're still in this "hell" called Kansas. Why? When are you going to move back to your little utopian world, wherever that is, where no one tries to interact with you in any way? Maybe your last sentence (agoraphobia) nailed it on the head, in which case you'll be miserable no matter where you live. But don't go projecting your misery on others, especially kids.

msezdsit 5 years, 10 months ago

To bad this young girl is encouraging kindness and respect for others instead of the venomous hatred you are promoting. No place for you in this society. I would advise you stay as private as you can. At least scrooge was capable of overcoming your condition. Now, please excuse me if I have come across as trying to be to nice to you, I didn't intend to be.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 10 months ago

Good job, young lady. Pay no attention to the cynic behind the curtain. Adults get a fixed-ratio reinforcement token (paycheck) in a similar fashion. Doing good for others always pays off.

Windemere 5 years, 10 months ago

The cynic/troll should be ignored. While I applaud Mary's wonderful intentions, I do have to wonder whether kids were motivated by the chance to be awarded $10 rather than being motivated by good will. In other words, did some kids feign acts of kindness (in front of school staff) in order to win ten bucks? That would be sad if that did occur.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 10 months ago

I don't think so because they were handed out at random and I can't see the kids in the halls looking around trying to find someone to do a good deed to, and then hoping the right teacher notices.

Currant 5 years, 10 months ago

I loved this story and we talked about it at breakfast with the kids this morning. It seems like the key thing this young woman realized is that there is a flip side to the behavioral approaches schools tend to use. Instead of punishing people for doing bad things, she found a way to reward them for doing good. Hopefully students decided they like that culture better and it will last. Great work, Mary!

Liberty275 5 years, 10 months ago

"She just wanted to put whatever money her mother would have spent on her birthday into the program. "

That is the essence of humanity, and it is beautiful. To give without wanting is an ideal we should all embrace. Kudos to the young lady. I wish I had been as fine a human as her when I was her age.

Ricci Moyer 5 years, 10 months ago

My daughter was a 6th grader there at West this year an received two kindness awards. She did this withiout knowing that there was an award and received it at the assembly at the end of the year. I am so proud of her because she thought of someone else instead of herself. I am very proud of her and this little girl that created this program.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 10 months ago

I appreciate the gesture, but still old enough to think that kindness is its own reward. Being paid to be kind is off-putting to me.

akt2 5 years, 10 months ago

equalaccessprivacy is the one that likes to mess with people. But hey his state tax dollars spend just as well as anybody elses. Too bad he's paying them to a state he hates to live in. A true Midwesterner is quite the opposite of agorophobic. We are more apt to be claustrophobic. We like wide open spaces and uncluttered horizons. We're used to wind too. Including troll wind. Troll time better spent not being concerned with the 5 w's of awards given in middle school.

Robert Rauktis 5 years, 10 months ago

Character is what you do when no one is looking. I'd say many people don't want or need parenthesis put around what would be their parent's and teacher's job well done. That's a part of the "job well done". The rabble doesn't appreciate that.

jkrieger 5 years, 10 months ago

Thank you all for the wonderful kindness you've expressed to Mary. You obviously recognize her program as something that might make a difference in someone. Like she so unselfishly demonstrated by donating her birthday and raising even more money to make the program a success. Maybe if someone would have developed a similar program in the middle school that " equalaccessprivacy" attended, he or she wouldn't still be a bully. Great job Mary. You're family is very proud of you and so are the majority of most parents, kids, and citizens of Lawrence and West Middle School in particular. As for the author of the nasty remarks if you don't like it here then move on. I here Afghanistan is nice this time of year. As far as some of the scripture you're trying to pull in, try this one for yourself. “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” (Proverbs 4:23 TEV) Thanks everyone. Mary's very proud Dad.

razorsheldon 5 years, 10 months ago

I hope you don't mind that I profiled your daughter in A place dedicated to sharing inspirational stories of kindness and compassion.

It takes a very giving heart to do what she did, and I want you to know that there are many people out there that applaud what she did. I'm sure you're very proud of her, as you should be, and don't worry about the lone curmudgeon that doesn't appreciate her humanity.

Best, razorsheldon

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