Maria Sunick noticed something was missing as she sat in her classes or walked through the halls of Abington Heights High School.
No one was smiling.
As president of the student council, Sunick knew something had to be done.
“I got together with my advisors and we said, ‘Why?’ So we thought we needed to take another step to give everyone a reason to smile,” she said.
Sunick organized the “Smile Campaign” which began March 17 and will continue through Friday, March 21 with the intent to “encourage smiling,” she said.
If the senior sees someone with a frown, she said she’ll typically say, “Take the things you do have to smile about and put them before the things you’re struggling with, because everybody’s struggling.”
A pep rally, dance performances, music playing in the hallway and a motivational speaker are planned for the week. Gifts of rings, bracelets and stickers will also be given out.
The Smile Campaign comes on the heels of a pair of big projects aimed at improving the lives of students. “You Are Not Alone” and “Unique and United” were each completed approximately two months ago.
Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) president, Elyse Notarianni, and members of the group, came up with and implemented the You Are Not Alone wall idea “to get kids to write what they’re struggling with at school and in their personal lives, besides homework and besides school,” Sunick said.
The postcards were distributed to students in gym classes, and gave them an opportunity to anonymously share their struggles. SADD members later assembled them on the wall.
“The officers of SADD basically said, ‘We want to recognize that everyone has stress and we want you to officially put it on paper and show other kids we’re not alone,” Sunick said. “After we did that, we had kids write different influences and motivation on post-it notes to say ‘stick in there,’ or ‘don’t worry I’m struggling with the same thing and you’re not alone.’
“It was optional. The kids who did (participate) were helping other kids who were struggling.”
Some of the issues the students are struggling with included stress resulting from divorced parents, low self-esteem, and battling Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Sunick referred to the Unique and United project as a “staple” at the school that was implemented by a group of leaders who came together to come up with ideas as a means to symbolize unity among the students, administration, faculty and staff. The project also ties in with one of the themes for the year, known as “leave your mark in sports, academics, leadership and government…We thought we could also incorporate this into unique and united, because you’re literally leaving your mark on the walls of the school,” she said.
The walls of multi-colored handprints line both sides of a corridor on the main level, across from the library, and took one day to complete. Faculty and staff also participated, along with members of the recently formed Diversity Club.
“When you tour the school it’s kind of shocking,” Sunick said.. “We set up fold-up tables and had help from kids from the advanced art classes. We all had T-shirts with handprints on them and we had buckets of paint.
“The kids would come up; we would paint their hands and get them up on the ladder… A lot of the art students donated their time, because they had to be here all day.”
And, in the same way the overlapping colors are all unique, Sunick noted, the thousand students in the school are also unique.
“We know subconsciously we can be friends, but we needed a way to symbolize that no matter what, we’re unique and united. That’s where the term comes from,” she said.