By Jessica Easthope
Kelly Wolf, the principal of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy starts every day with the same message.
“Most importantly what we always talk about, kindness truly does make a difference right,” she says during her morning announcements.
It’s a lesson she’s trying to ingrain in her students, especially during a year when cyberbullying is reaching new heights. According to L1GHT, an organization that tracks online harassment, there’s been a 70 percent increase in cyberbullying in the last few months.
But at Our Lady of Grace, things are different. There hasn’t been any bullying — a rare feat for any elementary school.
“There is no reason to bully someone right now and that being said, we haven’t had any situations,” said Kelly. “I think children are just thankful to be here and see their friends and with that, it’s just joy they have in their hearts.”
It’s a simple act she thinks is changing hearts and minds.
“That momentum of just saying hello to a friend, it truly can make someone’s day,” she said.
She calls the initiative “Start Your Day With Hello.” Every student begins the day by saying hello to everyone in their class and anyone else they come across.
“It doesn’t exist, almost. It’s just the values that we develop to make that student the character that we believe in in Catholic education,” Kelly explained.
This year, Our Lady of Grace welcomed more than 50 new students, all from public school. Still, there weren’t any incidents during the unfamiliar and stressful transition.
Jeanmarie Bisset, who’s been a teacher at the Gravesend school for 20 years, says she sees a change in how her fifth graders relate to new students and each other.
“Since the pandemic I feel like the children enjoy each other’s company more. It is kind of a weird silver lining of the situation. It’s nice to see how much they appreciate each other,” she told Currents News.
If the pandemic has helped force bullying out of Our Lady of Grace, principal Kelly Wolf says it’s a positive shift she hopes will be permanent.
“It is the kindness from our heart that matters,” she said, ending the morning announcements. “Truly make someone smile today boys and girls. Have a great day.”