Pictured Above: Summer Shaw and Annie Griffith are advisory board members for the SAVE Promise Club at Lakeview Fundamental Elementary.
Courtesy of Kari Altman-Wood
By Catherine Hicks
For two students at Lakeview Fundamental Elementary, spreading the message of kindness and nonviolence is an important passion.
Annie Griffith and Summer Shaw are members of the SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) Club at Lakeview Fundamental Elementary, one of 10 pinellas district schools to be selected for an award “recognizing their anti-violence efforts.”
Of more than 3,000 schools nationwide with a SAVE Club, only 41 were selected to receive the award. Of the 41, 10 of the selected clubs are in Pinellas County.
SAVE is the student leadership initiative of Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that “trains students and adults to know the signs of gun violence so that no parent experiences the tragic, preventable loss of their child.”
Sandy Hook Promise was founded and led by several family members who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. The nonprofit organization “aims to empower student leaders to take an active role in increasing school safety and preventing different forms of violence in schools and communities.”
According to an announcement by the Pinellas County Schools, the award also provides a stipend of $500 to each club, to be spent on “taking an active role in increasing school safety and preventing different forms of violence in schools and communities.”
“At the level of elementary, we don’t really focus too much on the nonviolence as we don’t have much violence here,” said Kari Altman-Wood, who is a SAVE Club advisor. “It’s more on kindness and inclusion, making sure that everybody is feeling accepted and understood.”
Ten-year old Griffith and 11-year old Shaw both serve on the advisory board to the club and are passionate about sharing this message of kindness and inclusion within their school.
“I love spreading the message of kindness,” said Griffith. “I would do anything to get that message through our school.”
Shaw also likes being kind to others. “Sometimes that doesn’t happen and I want to make sure everybody does all the time,” Shaw said.
For their award project, the club promoted themed weeks throughout the year, each focused on teaching a different lesson related to being kind and accepting of others.
One of the themes was “Start with Hello,” where students were encouraged to reach out and help others by starting with “a ‘Hello’ to students that are by themselves,” Altman-Wood said. “Then there was the ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ week, which was doing acts of kindness for others, maybe compliments or saying ‘hi’ to people. We also did themed dress up days and activities.”
Other themed weeks included the “No Name Calling” week, during which students were encouraged not to call each other names and rather uplift each other. In the “Say Something” week, students were being emphasised the importance of going to a trusted adult in times of need, or to voice something that has happened with them or another student.
As a part of the “Say Something” week, students were taught three steps they can do when they or someone else needs help, as well as the difference between reporting and tattling.
During club meetings, members completed kindness activities that were focused outside of the school, such as Thanksgiving cards for nursing home patients.
As advisory board members, Griffith and Shaw contributed to coming up with ideas as well as the execution of the weekly themed decorations.
“We make posters that go around the school, like in the cafeteria and hallways,”Shaw said. “We do this thing where if you’re kind, then you get a wristband or card and we pass it along to make sure everyone’s being kind.”
Besides the posters, the club members also go on to the morning announcements and decorate around the school. “For our ‘Stand Against Violence’ week, we decorated the hallways with red ribbons, and for ‘Safety Week’ we decorated the golf cart of our school safety officer,” Griffith said.
Griffith and Shaw both reflected fondly on their time in the SAVE Club, which was formed at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
“When we were painting signs last week, we got to do this big poster. It was really fun, because we got all different colors of paint and put lots of different messages on it,” Shaw said.
In addition to creating posters, the students were also involved in contests for decorating.
“We had a school-wide door decorating contest for Christmas and we all had ideas, and every day we were all coming to Miss Wood with a different idea or vision. It was really fun,” said Griffith. “We didn’t win first place, but my class won second place.”
The SAVE Club advisor, Altman-Wood, has worked in Pinellas County Schools for 11 years, nine of which have been at Lakeview Elementary. Altman-Wood is fulfilled by her work in the SAVE Promise club, as the message resonates with her own passions.
“I am very passionate about promoting kindness,” Altman-Wood said. “I have probably 67 shirts that promote different forms of kindness, in inspirational messages and things like that. I’m passionate about that, working with kids, and getting them to promote this message of kindness as well. I would love to see this message of nonviolence and acceptance to spread throughout the students.”
The Sandy Hook Promise, the organization that provided the awards, invited 10 schools to showcase and share their project experiences and activities via a virtual National Youth Summit on April 17.
According to Altman-Wood, students in the club and their parents were invited to attend the event For their presentation, the SAVE Club sent to the event organizers photographs of their club meetings along with decorations.
The SAVE Promise Club has chapters in 49 states across and 153,000 members across the country. They report that they have 247 confirmed lives saved, more than 60,000 anonymously reported tips The SAVE Promise Club has also enacted the passage of the STOP School Violence Act of 2019.