While others were stepping out protesting gun violence in the nation’s schools, students at Portsmouth West High School decided to step up and take action to make a difference in the lives of their peers.
On the 19th anniversary of the Columbine Massacre, where two students opened fire on their peers in Littleton, Colo., Breanna Skaggs and Kinzey Hempker made a point to use that somber date in history to spread encouragement and love to fellow students in their high school by creating a “Wall of Positivity.”
Leah Blevins, who teaches algebra and calculus at PWHS, serves as faculty advisor for the two students to oversee the project.
“They came to me and had seen on Facebook where people were doing a pay-it-forward type of thing, and they wanted to bring forward some ideas of what we could do here at our school. We started thinking, and they had the idea of doing the positive Post-its,” Blevins explains. “They went and asked the principal, Mr. Bazler, and he was all for it, as long as there was a teacher willing to help, and I volunteered.
”We decided to do it on April 20th, because that was the anniversary of Columbine. We did it on the night of the 19th. There had been posts online about people walking out the next day, but [Skaggs and Hempker] had the idea of walking up to someone and saying something positive, and rather than dwell on all the negative things that happened to make a positive change. That’s where the idea came from,” Blevins says.
“These two sophomores came into my classroom every morning for weeks to fill out Post-its, and I also had my classroom fill out Post-its, but I didn’t tell them what it was for. All of the staff and those two students filled out Post-its, but there were hundreds, and those two girls did most of them by themselves.
“We purchased some larger poster boards as well, and we wrote some bigger messages on those as well. On the 20th, Mr. Bazler made the announcement of what the wall was about. We call it the ‘Wall of Positivity,’ and the goal was for students to take a Post-it note and keep it for themselves — something that spoke to them — or to give it to someone that they felt it was fitting for,” Blevins says.
According to Blevins, the efforts made by Skaggs and Hempker were appreciated by their peers.
“The students were very positive about it and really liked it. I saw some students add notes to the wall after some had been taken. People that hadn’t participated at first had written down quotes they thought others would enjoy.”
The “Wall of Positivity” was up for a week at the high school, and, due to its positive reception by students and staff, there are plans to bring it back again in the future.
Reach Ivy Potter at 740-353-3101 ext. 1932