Mijares: Anaheim kindness campaign underscores the value of promoting character

Even the smallest gestures can make a huge impact.

desk-of-al-smallA recent initiative in Anaheim proved as much by challenging local students to complete one million caring deeds, from picking up trash to welcoming a new student. 

The “Million Acts of Kindness” campaign kicked off in 2013 with the goal of elevating the culture of an entire city by leveraging the goodwill of its youngest citizens — in this case the students of the Anaheim City School District, under the leadership of its superintendent, Dr. Linda Wagner.

By October 2014, their target was met, but committing acts of kindness can be a tough habit to break.

Anaheim’s successful experiment presents lessons for the rest of Orange County. As our schools charge forward with new educational standards and funding models, we cannot lose sight of the fact that a 21st-century education must also be a values-based education. Beyond teaching “the four Cs” of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, we have a moral obligation to promote a fifth C — character. 

What do we mean by character? Think of it as encompassing basic human values such as honesty, kindness, respect and compassion. These qualities are at the heart of morally responsible and productive citizens, which is why it is so critical for educators to teach and model positive behaviors.

It is heartening that other school districts are looking at replicating Anaheim’s success by starting their own projects to build a culture of kindness that extends beyond the classroom. Meanwhile, I also envision opportunities to scale up. 

Just think of the impact that we could make if we committed to spreading acts of kindness throughout Orange County. And what if we didn’t stop at a million?