Beginning in May, the Orange County Department of Education will embark on an ambitious new campaign encouraging students, educators and community members to help reach the goal of registering one billion acts of kindness.

Aimed at promoting civility, character and positive school climates throughout Orange County and beyond, OCDE’s “One Billion Acts of Kindness” initiative will formally launch Thursday, May 5 during a special presentation at the Hyatt Regency Orange County. The event, featuring author and neurosurgeon Dr. James Doty as the keynote speaker, is open to educators, business leaders and other guests who register here.

“To pursue a billion acts of kindness is a lofty undertaking, perhaps even audacious in its scope,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares. “But the current climate of divisiveness, social fragmentation and political polarization calls for something big, and between our local school districts and community partners, we believe we have the resources and the drive to make this happen.”

Participants can share their good deeds in one of two ways: They can visit the website www.kindness1billion.org and click on the button designated, or they can post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #kindness1billion.

All kind acts, large or small, will count toward the goal of one billion. Examples include picking up discarded trash, welcoming a new student to school, allowing a car to merge ahead in traffic, taking part in a beach clean-up event, writing a kind note to a friend or family member, donating to a charity or volunteering at a local animal shelter. Each action must simply make a positive impact with no expectation of reciprocity.

To keep the momentum going, school districts and community groups are encouraged to incorporate the “One Billion Acts of Kindness” campaign into activities and events planned for the 2016-17 school year. Over the summer, OCDE also will develop tools and resources to assist teachers and administrators.

In 2013, the Anaheim Elementary School District joined a citywide effort to carry out a million acts of kindness, and the results exceeded expectations. Inspired by the challenge, the students of Anaheim posted increased attendance rates, and the district reported a reduction in suspensions.

“By scaling up to include a county of more than three million residents and perhaps beyond, we have the potential to build upon our shared values and enhance our relationships,” Dr. Mijares said. “There are critical lessons for our students as well. Beyond the emphasis on the four Cs of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, we have an extraordinary opportunity to promote the fifth C – character.”

April 29 is the deadline to register for the “One Billion Acts of Kindness” kickoff event, which will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 5 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Garden Grove. There is no cost to attend, and SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union will generously sponsor the presentation by offsetting parking fees.