New Dinwiddie High club promotes kindness, service
Random Acts of Kindness club has already attracted 100 members
DINWIDDIE — A new club at Dinwiddie High School already has more than 100 members, all dedicated to promoting kindness through small and large acts of service at their school and throughout the community.
English teacher Kymberly Knisley came up with the idea to start the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Club at the
end of last school year and shared the idea with three of her research and writing classes. Several students expressed interest, and she decided to do a test run activity over the summer.
“I told everyone that I really wanted to start a Random Acts of Kindness Club, and their response was very positive. They said, ‘We love that idea, we’d love to do that,’” Knisley said. “We had about 10 or 15 that stayed in contact with me over the summer. I started a RAKtivist group message, and I said, ‘Hey our first activity will be School Supplies for Success.’”
School Supplies for Success involved the RAK Club students partnering with the Dinwiddie County Christmas Sharing Foundation to organize and assemble school supply bags before the start of school. When Knisley asked the students if they were interested, about 10 jumped at the opportunity to help the community organization.
“I really got emotional about the great turnout," said Knisley. "They were fed, we enjoyed our time together, it didn’t even feel like work. And I think that’s the beauty of the club; it doesn't have to feel like work. It needs to be fun. Doing things for other people is fun. The school supply drive is what really gave me the confidence that this [club] was going to work.”
Little did Knisley know that her club of 15 students would soon turn into 104. As the start to the school year rolled around, Dinwiddie high schoolers of all grade levels, backgrounds and GPAs eagerly signed up for the new club.
“When I introduced the club, one way I really promoted it was this isn’t a club that wants to know your GPA. This isn’t a club that wants to know everything else you’re involved in right now. And nothing is wrong with those clubs; those clubs are great,” said Knisley. “Every club has its own purpose, and our purpose is that we want to cater to anyone who wants to join. There’s no cutoff dates to join. Just join when you can.
“I say this in a good way ... I wasn’t really ready for that type of response, but I was humbled and I was excited and I was like, what do I do now?” she added. “When I started the club, I would have been happy with 20, and I was just floored when I had over 100.”
Now equipped with a large group of students eager to make a difference, the club holds weekly meetings where they generate ideas for activities that will spread kindness on school grounds and in the community.
So far, in addition to partnering with the Christmas Sharing Foundation for the school supply drive, RAK Club members have assisted with Special Olympics Bowling and have cleaned up trash at school football games. They have several other activities planned for the near future, including passing out goodies to teachers during American Education Week and walking dogs at the Dinwiddie Animal Shelter. They also are working to form a partnership with the Dinwiddie Kiwanis Club.
“Since this is a new club, we’ve just been archiving all of our ideas. We have a lot of things we want to do, and we’ve been approaching everything we can,” said Knisley. "But we’ve been doing pretty good so far, and we haven’t lost any momentum.”
A Dinwiddie native, Knisley began to form the idea for something like the RAK Club back when she was simultaneously completing her teaching degree and working as a reporter for the Dinwiddie Monitor. As a journalist, she attended various community events and noticed volunteer groups consisted heavily of adults; there was a lack of student participation.
“I was the special events/features reporter," she said. "I was very involved with all the local community events, and one thing that stuck out to me was, where are the students at? And I was very confused by that. I went to Relay for Life, I went to several different functions in the community, and I was like, wow, we need more students here.
“That was part of my goal — I wanted to see more effort from our students in terms of volunteering, and it’s no one's fault. I just thought I’m going to create an opportunity,” she added. “If you want to volunteer, just join the Random Acts of Kindness Club and we’ll extend that opportunity to you.”
Knisley thoroughly enjoyed writing feelgood stories, and she noticed her audience enjoyed reading them just as much. She was inspired by her readers’ interest in the good and uplifting things happening throughout the community.
“People want to feel good, they want to hear about things going well, so why not cater to that. Let’s create a club,” she said. “This is a big high school with so many beautiful children in this building that truly want to help. They want to do something to help.”
Knisley’s students couldn’t agree more. They do want to help, and they love being able to make a difference in their school and community.
“When Ms. Knisley first brought up the club to us, I automatically wanted to join, because I feel like all together there needs to be more kindness in the world, said senior RAK Club member D.W. Lamm. “There’s a lot of greed in the world, so I feel like with all of us being kind around Dinwiddie, it’ll brighten the community.”
“I joined because Ms. Knisley, the energy she gives off and the support she shows students that aren’t even in her class, really spoke to me,” added RAK Club member Xzavier Daniels. “I decided to join because I want to be more like Ms. Knisley.”
Knisley noted she’s been fortunate to receive support and assistance from DHS staff, including English teacher Lauren Sagiao, who stepped in to co-sponsor the RAK Club.
“When Ms. Knisley asked me if I would be willing to help with the RAK Club, at first I didn’t know too much about it, and I looked it up and I thought, that’s such a great thing,” said Sagiao. “I feel like it should be in every school, elementary, middle and high. It’s just something I really believe in.”
Principal Randall Johnson has also been tremendously supportive of the RAK Club.
“The RAK Club has done some really good stuff to try to create a positive atmosphere for the students here,” he said. “I’m really pleased not only with what [Knisley’s] doing, but with what the kids are doing. It’s great.”
Members of Dinwiddie High School’s Random Acts of Kindness Club clean up trash at a football game.
Dinwiddie High School’s new Random Acts of Kindness Club has a membership of more than 100 students dedicated to spreading kindness through both small and large acts of service.