Walk around most high schools across the nation and you'll hear it -- negative, hateful comments. High school is often full of talk that brings down the self-image, self-esteem and self-confidence of many teenagers.
Many teens seem to be affected by images they see on television, in movies and in magazines. Sometimes even things as drastic as eating disorders afflict teens because of this.
This was the case for senior Kelly Schucker of Niagara Falls High School. While relapsing from an eating disorder, Kelly googled diet books and came across "Operation Beautiful" by Caitlin Boyle. Kelly had no idea that what she had stumbled upon would impact her life so much.
Operation Beautiful started when Caitlin started leaving positive messages on the mirrors of public restrooms -- at work, at the gym, at the grocery store. She compiled 125 of them into a book that includes tips on how to live a healthy, happier life. Visit OperationBeautiful.com for more information.
Kelly fell in love with the idea of these simple positive messages and how potentially powerful these acts of kindness could be.
"I absolutely believe no one is more desperately in need of positive messages than teenage girls," she said. So, she began hanging Post-it Notes in the school's bathrooms, on lockers and on classroom doors.
In English class, the students are required to do a weekly blog, and Kelly suggested they blog about Operation Beautiful. Her classmates loved the idea, inspiring Kelly to try and make a club out of it. She asked one of the school librarians to supervise the club. Mrs. first name Rodgers agreed and more and more Post-its started appearing throughout the school.
Every few weeks, Niagara Falls High School becomes "beautified," as Kelly calls it. She and the other members get together for an hour and fill out Post-it Notes with positive messages. The next morning they hang them up for students to find throughout the building. The club even holds "Makeup Free Tuesdays," encouraging girls that they don't need to wear makeup to be considered beautiful.
As students stop to read the messages, smiles begin appearing on their faces. Some students add the notes to a collection they have started, some hang them up for the first time and some attach them to their binders. Some students even ask others if they can have theirs so they can add to their collection.
These notes don't just hang in the lockers of girls ... a few guys even have them hanging in theirs, too.
"I love seeing Post-its in everyone's lockers, especially the guys. I knew when I started putting Post-its on lockers that I had to appeal not only to teenage girls but guys, too," Kelly said. "And why shouldn't guys be involved? We all suffer from insecurities. So, I leave positive messages on lockers, a lot of times with inspirational quotes to remind my peers that we are all good enough, just as we are."
To Kelly, Operation Beautiful has become a way to "redefine what society has told us 'beautiful' means. I can't stand looking at magazines anymore -- they are dominated by half-naked, young women with dyed hair and fake eyelashes, bodies bordering emaciation. When I was younger I loved these magazines. But being bombarded with these unreasonable images, especially at a young age, mangles what we believe 'beautiful' means."
Kelly added: "I was 17 years old and two years into recovery from my eating disorder before I realized that beauty is not an angular, bony young woman with augmented breasts and airbrushed everything. Beauty is a woman who is strong and intelligent, who has a big heart and believes in herself."
Operation Beautiful is simple. All you need is pen, paper and some love to share. If you need help coming up with a saying, you can check out the "Operation Beautiful" website for inspiration.
"I think Operation Beautiful is not only good for our school, I think it has been an ignored necessity for far too long," Kelly said. "I hear negativity in the hallways of NFHS every single day. A lot of negative comments are from girls who hate themselves, which breaks my heart. I know the girls who read the Operation Beautiful notes may not believe the positive quotes they read, but if a note makes only one person smile, I have achieved something incredible."
Isabella Fagiani is a junior at Niagara Falls High School.