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In Henniker, a celebraton of acts of kindness

HENNIKER - In light of both the holiday season and last Friday's tragic school shootings in Newtown, Conn., an assembly to celebrate acts of kindness at the Henniker Community School on Wednesday seemed especially poignant.

"It's nice to be able to come together this week for positive things," said Principal Katherine McBride. "We want to think about kindness and goodness and celebrate that."

Kids ranging in age from pre-school to eighth grade, the population at the school, gathered in the gymnasium on Wednesday afternoon, clapping to music from their school's rock band and applauding each other for simply doing nice things for people.

The student-led program, called Ambassadors of Kindness (AOK), began in the school eight years ago after an unkind incident between two seventh-graders became the topic of a class discussion, according to spokeswoman Patti Osgood. The students realized that they had a choice to be kind to each other and the younger kids in the school and began to hand out certificates to those who showed kindness toward others.

"It feels good enough to help somebody, but it feels even better to have someone say you did a good job helping others," said Katie McMurphy, one of the student organizers of the assembly.

Every act of kindness counts toward a certificate, no matter how big or how small, said Corbin Paradis, another student organizer. From helping a younger kid tie his shoes to offering assistance to the teacher in the classroom to simply opening a door for someone, each act of kindness is measured as a step towards making the whole school community a better place.

"It's the simple things that really do help a lot," said Paradis.

During the assembly, it was announced that 144 acts of kindness had been recognized. Those acts included collecting nonperishable items and other goods for the local food pantry, a toy drive held by the teachers, helping a new classmate find a water fountain, sending letters to a Marine serving oversees and collecting Thanksgiving dinners for four families.

Abby Chapin, an eighth-grader, said it was her last year before heading to high school and she really wanted to help out with the assembly.

"I wanted to do something good for the whole school, something big," she said about the assembly. "I've learned that there's always someone who's worse off than you so if you can help, that's a good thing."

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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at nfoster@newstote.com.

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