Small acts of kindness are done everyday, but how often are those actions recognized?
At Farnsworth Middle School (FMS), Students Working to Achieve Greatness, also known as S.W.A.G., is a character education program that recognizes students who make positive contributions to the school community. It was first introduced in 2020 at a Character Education Committee meeting by sixth grade special education teacher Julie Bruno. She presented the idea after learning the committee was looking to highlight students whose altruistic actions were making a positive impact in the FMS community. Members were instantly hooked on the catchy acronym and embraced the innovative initiative.
S.W.A.G. sets itself apart from several other character education programs at FMS by honoring the small, day-to-day positive behaviors of students that often go unnoticed. Its goal is to recognize conduct that aligns with FMS’s Six Pillars of Character (honesty, respect, responsibility, caring, community service and perseverance) and the district-wide Positivity Project (P2). Students who achieve this award receive a certificate and a rubber bracelet to commemorate their exceptional accomplishment.
“SWAG awards have been the perfect way to acknowledge our students, and student’s faces light up when they see the certificate posted on our SWAG bulletin board. They feel beyond special!” said Ms. Bruno enthusiastically.
Under Ms. Bruno’s leadership, teachers, staff and school personnel are asked to recommend students they feel match the program’s criteria. No gesture is too big or too small, as students are nominated for simple acts of kindness like putting up chairs at the end of the school day, helping a classmate organize their locker, or giving 100% effort towards a difficult task.
“I always tell students what you do matters, and one person can make a big difference. The payoff for having good character is that it makes you a better person and makes the world a better place,” Ms. Bruno said.
Since the program’s inception, S.W.A.G. has honored and celebrated hundreds of students and an infinite number of kind gestures. A bulletin board located in the hallways of FMS commemorates the positive behaviors of students recognized by S.W.A.G., serving as both a source of celebration and inspiration.
“Each time I post an award to the bulletin board it brings happiness into my heart. I know the values of character recognized on the bulletin supercharge our students’ growth into responsible, caring citizens,” said Ms. Bruno.