It was her first day at a new school, and the expectation was that everyone was going to be friendly and kind to one another. What she found out was this; students were walking around with their headphones on, their heads glued to the screen of their phones never once looking up to see the world in front of them.
The blue skies, the tree branches gently flowing in the breeze, fellow students longing for a friendly face.
Angela Elmer is a junior at Castleton University who transferred in this past year. When she would visit the university, tour guides would illustrate how everyone on campus was extremely friendly and how the atmosphere of Castleton was different from other schools.
Elmer realized that at least initially that this wasn’t the case.
“The first couple days of classes I had that expectation,” she said. “But then when I was walking to class I didn’t know anybody, so almost nobody was even looking up to see where they were going.”
Some students would go through something like this and write off the students and the school.
But not Elmer.
She lived in a dorm with the treasurer of the Random Acts of Kindness Club, and once she heard about it, she wanted to join. She is now the secretary of the club.
The club has made its mark by doing the little things to brighten the days of the students and the community. Members have given out free donuts and coffee to students on their way to their classes, stuck small bags of candy on the windshields of cars around campus and even put sticky notes with encouraging words for students to find around the university.
Students who are not a part of Random Acts of Kindness believe that being kind is important for the student body, as well as for the faculty members and the local community.
Fourth-year student Leo Richardson took a pause and sighed before speaking about kindness on a college campus.
“Kindness is free. It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind except for the emotional effort,” he said. “I think if everybody sort of shares an equal understanding that you’re gonna show up with as much emotional effort as you can to be kind, that that should be the standard.”
Random Acts of Kindness member Alyssa Crean is in her second semester with the club. She wants to see change brought to Castleton’s campus, and believes that the club can be that change.
She wants to see kindness throughout campus without the club needing to be around.
“I’m hoping that’s something that comes out of this club is that people just start doing it,” she said.
Castleton professor Katy Culpo is the advisor for the club. She began to speak passionately about education and how the system does not do a good job of ensuring students have the tools to live a healthy life.
She gave a warning before stepping onto her soapbox to explain.
“We in our society do not do a good job, if at all, teaching individuals how to live a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Culpo spoke about mental health, and how people often forget about it when trying to be healthy.
“I’ll have students come here and I’ll be like, ‘what’s a healthy person?’ ‘They eat right, they exercise.’ Okay, that’s one of many dimensions of health,” she said. “But part of being healthy is our psychological health, our mental health, and part of that is perspective and positivity and how we process the world around us.”
Culpo cares for her students, and that is evident by the challenge she gives them in some of her classes.
It is called the, “Love your Brain 30-Day Challenge.” Students are tasked with keeping track of their sleep schedule, physical activity, nutrition and stress.
There is a calendar attached so the students can go through each day and keep track of how well they do with each category for that particular day.
Also attached are, “Tips for Helping with Anxiety and Depression,” which includes a list of different things one can do to help ensure they have better mental health. It also includes a list of helpful applications on the bottom to track your emotions or meditate.
Freshman Brianna Murray, the treasurer of Random Acts of Kindness, said that her upbringing helped motivate her to join the club and bring kindness to Castleton University.
“When I was younger, my grandma used to work at an old folks home … When I got older, she started taking me there and she showed me that just because people are certain ways doesn’t mean you should treat them any different,” she said.
Murray also said that her mother instilled the usual life lessons you learn when you are younger.
“My mom taught me always be polite, always say please, always open the door for somebody if they need help, always ask people how they are doing,” she said.
Being kind doesn’t just stay on campus when the club is present. Students bring their light back to their hometowns and to the people who need it the most.
Sophomore Baylee Lawrence was driving around her hometown when she decided to stop at Dunkin Donuts for some coffee. When she rolled up to the payment window she glanced at her rear-view mirror and noticed something.
A mother with her two kids was stalled behind her in line. Lawrence decided to pay for her coffee.
“I was like ‘hey, could I pay for the person behind me?’ and she was like ‘she got like $15 worth of stuff,’ I was like I don’t care let’s make her day a whole lot better,” she said.