Hoover Middle School in the Town of Tonawanda has a new kind of “glee” club.
One morning each week, the school’s more than 500 students have been greeted by a positive message posted to their lockers designed to boost morale and self-esteem.
Started by seventh-grader Alyssa Germano, the “Post-it Project” combines the ubiquitous sticky notes with a friendly “put-up” – the opposite of a humiliating “put-down.” Some put-ups are as simple as “Believe in yourself” while others – “You are unique as a snowflake” – are made more elaborate with drawings.
“We come up with them and we take them from other places,” Alyssa, 12, said of her group of about a dozen students. “Sometimes they just hit us and someone will say ‘Ooh, I just got a great idea.’ When we can’t think of anything we use song quotes.”
Alyssa got the idea from the Disney Channel’s “Friends for Change” anti-bullying initiative. She said she felt the need to get involved because of her own “horrible” experience being bullied last year.
“I said we should really have a system like that at our school to try and stop bullying because it’s agitating,” she said.
Alyssa took her idea to school counselor Elizabeth Cipolla, who was supportive.
“I didn’t know how well it would work out,” Cipolla said. “But she is such a cute kid. Her motives, I think, are pretty pure. She just wants change. She felt like she was a victim of bullying and we worked through that. I think she just wanted to pay it forward.”
With Cipolla’s approval, Alyssa and her mom went out and bought Post-its and pens and recruited friends such as fellow seventh-graders Zack Kalinowski and Celia Lynch.
The initial reaction to the anonymous notes was positive and they generated many smiles.
“I don’t necessarily think it will stop bullying but I think it helps people to feel like they are wanted and good about themselves,” said Celia.
Even upper-level administrators were unaware at first of the grass-roots initiative’s origins.
“Some of the staff thought it was myself and my assistant principal that had done it, but I wasn’t even sure where it was coming from,” said Principal Carm Persico. “I was very pleasantly surprised when I walked in and saw the positive messages on the Post-it notes. I said to the staff, ‘Sometimes the kids teach us a thing or two.’ ”
As could be expected with any brave undertaking, not everyone has been as receptive.
“Some people were rude, tore them down,” Alyssa said. “Last week, actually, I was walking through the hallway to go to lunch and somebody tore every single Post-it down in that hallway and they were on the floor. So I spent my lunch period picking them up and displayed them as a rainbow with my music teacher.”
Normally the group meets Thursday after school to devise and post the notes, but last week it met on Tuesday because Thursday was Thanksgiving. School administrators said the holiday season is a good time for the Post-it Project to appear.
“I think this is always a good time for most students,” Persico said. “But for some it is difficult that they don’t have the many things that others do have. So taking time to show your gratitude for others as human beings I think is extra special.”
Cipolla said the notes are a good creative outlet and form of expression for the kids.
“When you walk into the school – like last night I was in here with my husband – it’s just a different environment,” she said. “It’s just so positive. And they’re funny. You get a chuckle out of them.”
Indeed, many of the notes are imbued with a pre-teen’s sense of humor. Alyssa said her favorite put-up is “Just so you know, YOLO, but you’ll never be solo.” YOLO is a recently popularized acronym for the saying “You only live once.”
Other favorites are Zack’s “Ain’t nobody gonna chop you down” with a drawing of a tree, and one girl’s “Ain’t nobody got time for that” with the word “Bully” circled and a line drawn through it.
Persico said the project fits with the school’s 3-year-old student conduct program called R.O.A.R.S., which stands for “showing Respect, taking Ownership of actions, a positive Attitude, being Responsible and Safe.”
“I’d like to hope that some of this came from that,” she said. “We’re trying to instill those characteristics in students and show them how important it is in and out of school.”
Alyssa said she plans to continue the project and even expand it by personalizing notes for students’ birthdays. She’d like to run the Post-it Project next year as an eighth-grader then hand it off to someone else.
“In the halls I hear people saying, ‘I got a Post-it on my locker that says I’m perfect,’” Alyssa said. “I see a lot of smiles.”