Let me introduce you to Jeanie Hershey, who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in individual, couples and family therapy and helping her clients find the key to unlocking their success.
She called me one day wanting to know about my Make A Difference WEEK with Make a Difference with the Power of Acknowledgment UTrain Program.
Here is her amazing, heart grabbing story:
One day, the grandfather of a student at McCain Middle School, in the rural, historic town of Payette, Idaho asked me for help in making a difference in the school where he believed disrespect had become the norm for interactions.
That evening I received an email from a friend of mine, a school teacher in that school, with the same type of request. When you believe in something good happening, there is synergy, good things happening and coming together.
We dialogued with several people about programs, and they expressed excitement about our being a pilot program for them. Then came the tasks of finding funding and putting this into a school schedule. Ms. J chose to use her Advisory Class for 7th graders where the goal is to enhance their learning. We were very close to the end of the school year but chose to try anyway.
The first day we had the materials, the class viewed the movie clip of the impact of a father sharing appreciation to his son. That night a suicide was prevented. The son had already written the letter for his parents that he could never please them and so was taking his life. The gun was ready, and he was waiting until they went to bed. Lives were changed that night through the power of affirmative words.
One could sense that the clip had touched them. Ms J called each of the 31 students up, one by one, to tell them of her appreciation for them and shared specifics with them as she gave each a sticker, "You make a difference". Additionally, she gave them 3 stickers more to share with others.
We may never know that any lives were saved that day from suicide, but it was certainly apparent that lives were being impacted. Students took opportunity to make sure that Ms J and I each received our own sticker. In addition to sharing a sticker with someone they wanted to let know that made a difference in their life, they were asked to write a short story or report about that experience.
Across town, at Payette High School, another teacher friend asked to use the program in her Special Education class of 12 students. We had only 4 days before school ended for the students.
After telling the story that first morning about the importance of sharing affirmation for others, Ms. S called her students, one by one, to step out into the hallway, where in privacy she could share heartfelt aspects of what she appreciated in that student's life.
As they came back into the room, most were saying, "She made me cry." Someone had touched their life in as special way.
They too were given 3 stickers to share with others - catch them doing something good or express appreciation to someone and then write about what had happened.
While in the class, a tall young man, who had been "rocking" in his chair, suddenly got up and came to me. As he presented me one of his stickers, he said, "Ms. Hershey, I tearyeyed?! They also made sure that Ms S was told why she was appreciated and given a sticker.
As the students in each class returned the second day, there was an excited buzz in the classroom, the atmosphere was changed. On that first day, I had asked each class if they believed that they could make a difference in their school, home and community.
The response was hands waving in the air and saying "Yes, we can." That day as they returned to school having experienced passing a sticker and affirmative words to someone, you could sense that they indeed did believe they could, and were going to, make a difference.
The next step involved the use of blue bracelets imprinted with "I Make a Difference."
As we stood in a circle around the room, I affirmed the student to my right, gave him a bracelet to wear, and then gave him one to pass on to the student to his right as he acknowledged that student. After the activity, each was given 3 bracelets to share with others. Again, to write about their experiences - what was it like for the person that they gave the bracelet and what it like for them to share.
Students got very involved in each classroom, as they were given a strip of paper, asked to write down the name of someone they had shared with, and then we made a paper chain to hang in the room. Such enthusiasm! It was understood that the ones we listed were not nearly all who had been touched as there was a ripple effect to the activity. The students at McCain had a total of 133 circles on their chain that they looped on the wall outside their classroom.
The next task was the practice of introducing self and saying three things that you are good at. As I started the activity, I acknowledged that the activity is not easy for me either. We discussed reasons why we have difficulty speaking positively about ourselves.
Although often somewhat difficult, each student in the classrooms followed through on the exercise and experienced some positive emotions at having done so.
Now, listen to their stories, written in their own language and emotions. They asked me to share these with many people and said they also want their own copy. I have withheld the students' names to protect their privacy.
MRS. JONES ADVISORY CLASS at McCAIN MIDDLE SCHOOL
I know you were here for this, but I am writing about when I gave Mrs. Jones her sticker. It made me smile when she got tears in her eyes. I think it made me feel appreciated for making someone else feel better about their self. I want to make a difference in others' lives and mine.
I gave a sticker to T because she is always there for me when I need her. She is very nice and supportive. She is my best friend! "Thank you for being a nice friend T." She also gave me a hug! It made me feel happy and good.
I MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!! When I gave my friend a sticker, she said that she doesn't understand. I told her I was walking around with no one to talk to. You came over and we started talking. You make a difference in my life and that's why I gave you a sticker.
I make a difference," my teacher said. I thought she was lying, but I thought for a minute that I do make a difference. So, I thought, who makes a difference in my life. And, I thought of my mom, and then I gave that to her. She cried and I cried. We were both touched. I gave one to my teacher. I said, "You make a difference" and he said, "Thanks." That is all. Good bye
Note: Out of this letter, it was apparent that it is also important to learn to accept affirmations. It was hurtful for this student that a teacher only responded with "thanks." He ended his note with 5 sad faces.
When I gave my sticker to my best friend, H., she was a little confused. She said, "But I didn't donate money." I looked at her and said, "What? You don't need to. I just want to tell you how special you are and you are such a good friend." I think she was still a little confused but I think she felt special.
MY STORY ABOUT WHEN I GAVE A STICKER TO SOMEONE:
I gave a sticker to my best friend because she is always there for me and I'm happy that she is there for me. When I gave her the sticker, she hugged me and said, "Thank You." Then she gave me a sticker and she said, "Thank you for always being there for me." Then we both hugged and smiled.
The first sticker I gave away to my wonderful mother. She almost teared up because she told me she is so strict with my sister and I because she wanted us to finish school and learn how to cook. My feeling was she is strict but I know she loves us a lot.
I make a Difference: I gave a sticker to my friend, C. because I appreciate how he always helps people when they are getting bullied. And, I really appreciate how he helps people feel good about themselves. I also gave a sticker to my mom and it made me feel like a good person even though I might not always act like it. I really felt good about myself.
When I gave my mom her sticker on Mother's Day, she cried. I felt like I made her day when I stuck that sticker on her chest when she smiled. It felt good to make her happy. It made me happy.
Once I gave out my first sticker, it was not hard at all to give out the rest. Well, the very first important person I gave it to was my mom. She really loved it.
I gave a sticker to my dad and he was confused at first. When I told him what I appreciate about him, my dad was very happy to hear what I said and he was happy the rest of the day. I told my dad that I appreciate how hard working he was and always providing stuff for us before him.
Note: This class believed so strongly that they could make a difference in the community, some of them chose to walk in the Apple Blossom Parade in town and pass out stickers and bracelets to persons they "caught" doing something good.
MS. STEINIKER'S SPECIAL ED CLASS AT PAYETTE HIGH SCHOOL
A person who makes a difference in life is my grandpa. I chose my grandpa because when I see him, he makes me smile.
The one person who makes a difference in my life are my special ed teachers. The reason they make a difference in my life is because they always help me with my work and make sure I have good grades. They also make a difference in my life because I can talk to them and they will listen to me. They are friends and they also are my teachers.
J. makes a difference in my life. He mostly helps me keep out of trouble. I usually never get into trouble for stupid stuff. He usually tells me not to do something which usually changes the outcome or something that could have turned out very bad for me. I do respect him as a person. He changed his looks a lot but he doesn't change how he is, which is what I respect the most. Days, or even years, of my life I could never dream to be as great as him. He is an amazing guy and an amazing friend. I do hope to have him as a friend for the rest of my life. I just hope he sees me as a friend to hold on to for his life with him as my friend. I'll be sure to be a nice guy for many years.
To Ms. Steiniker: People who are making a difference in my life. Everybody around us is trying to make a difference in life. Teachers are one of them. Because they want their student to be successful in life, they are going to push them to do their best in every way they can. Friends are there to encourage their peers and they would help them to make the right decisions in life.
Parents are going to help them reach their goals and support the right ones. My family wants me to make the right choices in life. I think all of my family is my hero because they help me with making the right decisions and they will support me on the right decisions I choose. I think they are making a difference in my life.
My friends are nice and cool to talk to because they make me laugh and help me do things right. I feel like everyone is making a right decision. I like all of my teachers because they want me to succeed in my life.
Thank you everyone for being there for me and I wish you all the best summer. May your dreams come true. P.S. Have a great summer.
My mom makes a difference in my life. She feeds me and clothes me. She also can put a roof over my head. She loves me and I love her too. She goes out of her way to help me and also do the same things every time. I would do anything to keep my mom with me as long as possible, but she can't. When she goes, the world will be no life for me.
The one person that makes a difference in my life: Well, several people do - like my step dad, my mom, and my teachers. They make a difference because they help me learn how to be a better person. They at least try to teach me more on the need to be a better person and what I need to learn in order to live a better life and to develop and grow.
When I gave a sticker to my brother, he got all teary-eyed and thanked me and gave me a hug. When I gave the sticker, it made me feel better about myself.
This should be carried to the PHS by an assembly every Friday and over the announcements as well.
When I got a "You Make a Difference" sticker and when I gave it out, it felt really good to make someone happy. We all feel good about those things when we say nice things to people. We should do it more.
What happened to me when I gave a YMAD sticker to T. - she cried and gave me a big hug. When Ms Steiniker gave it to me, I cried. This should be carried out at PHS by the beginning of the school year.
I felt awesome and the person was really happy. I gave one to C. It should be carried out in the assembly.
This made a big difference to me. It felt good when someone said a good thing about me and when I told another person a good thing about them, they smiled and thanked me. I think we should do this next year for a week. A lot of people can benefit from this program.
I gave a sticker to my boyfriend and he really liked it. He said that nobody has ever said that to him. It made me feel special knowing that I made someone's day. It should be in announcements like just a quote. It may help people by the way they act.
It makes a difference when people are noticed for just being there and be accepted without any peer pressure. It is good because instead of bullying, we'll have a school full of friends and not enemies. And, that is what people need in life: Support not neglect and insults. People need positivity in their life to show that being caring is more promising than threats.
When I got a YMAD sticker, I felt like someone cared about me and noticed that I make a difference and not "just some kid." When I gave a YMAD sticker to my girl, she cried and did not want to let go of me.
I think our school should always have a morning announcement to make a difference.
What happened to you?? What happened to me was that it helped me see what it would be like to open up and tell someone that they are special and that they mean something in this world and that in any way possible, they are special.
And if we would like to carry this out to do it during assemblies and if any teachers would like the program to schedule it for one of their classes.
When I gave my girlfriend the sticker and I told her why I was giving it to her - I gave her a hug and kissed her and told her I loved her.
Put this in the English classes.
I gave a sticker to my brother and to my friend in English. It felt good to my brother to know how much he means to me. He was happy to get it because I don't tell him enough that he is cool.
I gave it to my friend in English class because she makes me laugh everyday and laughter is important in my life. She was happy to get a sticker because she didn't even know how much that means to me.
I am so glad that I got to do this before I graduated. Thanks.
Jeanie Hershey LMFT, LCPC
Jeanie's Helping Heart, Idaho Program Facilitator for ...
Make A Difference with the Power of Acknowledgment
PS ... What Jeanie was TOO SELFLESS to say is that she went out into her business community and personally GOT THE FUNDING in just under a couple of weeks' time, so she could take this into the schools and do this. I'd like to acknowledge Jeanie as being a MEGA Difference Maker!