Gahanna Middle School South Character Counts #theGJPSway Shines During Season of Giving

As you walk through the halls of Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, you are likely to see many moments of kindness. Someone holding a door, picking up a dropped notebook for a fellow student, or simply giving a smile to someone who could use a boost. During this Thanksgiving season, students, staff and administrators of the district are expressing their gratitude for #theGJPSWay. One school in particular, Middle School South, is really getting into the spirit of giving with help from the Character Counts Club.

Students involved in the club are dedicated to improving morale by participating in projects to help their school and community. For the Thanksgiving season, Character Counts led the “Give to GRIN” (Gahanna Residents in Need) and “Pledge to Be Kind” campaigns.

The “Give to GRIN” campaign ran from October 16 to November 12, encouraging students and staff to participate in spirit days like wearing pajamas to school and dressing up for Halloween. To partake in spirit days, students and staff donated to a GRIN basket in each of their homerooms. GRIN provided the middle school with baskets and lists of food items that families would need to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. The students were tasked with filling the basket with food items and even gift cards for families to purchase perishable items.

In return, students and staff enjoyed dressing up, particularly on Halloween, when seventh grade staff dressed as Harry Potter characters and eighth grade staff dressed as the Spice Girls. But more importantly, students appreciated the opportunity to make a difference.

“I enjoy helping with Give to GRIN because it helps people who can’t otherwise get food,” said eighth grader Taibou Conde. “We help them get the resources they need to celebrate the holidays with their families. It’s also fun to see everyone get excited about giving by dressing up for spirit days.”

According to Tammy Passa, the Character Counts advisor and eighth grade English teacher, students collected 782 food items and about $660 in gifts cards and cash for GRIN. Some homerooms were able to fill up to 5 baskets. The boxed Thanksgiving dinners are then given out at the Gahanna Senior Center to local families in need. This year, at least 307 families with students in the Gahanna-Jefferson School District will receive Thanksgiving dinner boxes.

In addition to the support for GRIN, the Character Counts Club also led its first “Pledge to Be Kind” campaign throughout November. The initiative encouraged students and staff to be kind to others by signing a large kindness pledge poster. Activities surrounding the campaign included wearing cardigan sweaters to honor the famous Mr. Rogers on November 13, World Kindness Day.

As part of the campaign, morning announcements included a list of suggested acts of kindness every student could try. Character Counts students felt that while their peers are aware they should be kind, they didn’t have a clear idea of what that means. By giving them something kind they could do each day, they were able to teach their peers how simple it is to be nice to others.

“The idea was inspired by a post on another school’s social media page,” said Passa. “The students were really excited at the idea of giving their peers tangible ways to show respect and be considerate of others. The initiative has been a tremendous success.”

“I like being a part of Character Counts Club because it makes a noticeable difference in our school and community,” said seventh grader Ishan Rajgolikar. “It gives students a fun way to help others and encourages them to get involved.”

To follow along with the wonderful acts of good being done by Gahanna staff and students this holiday season, check out #theGJPSWay and #gjpsSeasonOfGiving on social media, and be sure to tag your own acts of kindness too.