Jordan Creek Kids Care Club Earns National Recognition

The Jordan Creek Elementary Kids Care Club was recognized by the National Kids Care Club and the American Advertising Federation (AAF) in November 2014. The club has since collaborated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign AAF chapter to develop a campaign promoting kindness and respect.

The Jordan Creek Kids Care Club (KCC) was founded three years ago. School counselor Barb Tigges and parent volunteers were inspired to start the club after hearing about similar clubs in the district. The group is open to all students. When each student joins, they fill out a registration form that includes a section about what they want to do to help others. The club then uses the students’ ideas to come up with character-building activities.

“Our hope is that you instill that at an early age—that you do things for others because it feels good,” Tigges said. “We’ve really seen that with the students here.”

The group focuses on the Character Counts pillars developed by the Josephson Institute youth ethics group: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Students meet with Tigges, teachers, parent volunteers, and speakers once a month to discuss the pillars of character and complete a service project that reinforces the pillar of the month.

The acts of service were incorporated as a way to encourage the habit of giving back. Students and staff review acts of character from the past month, then transition into the new pillar. The group discusses the current month’s pillar and may go through examples or watch a relevant video. Students then complete a service project that reinforces the focus pillar.

The October 2014 character pillar was respect. October is Bully Prevention Month, and the meeting fell on Oct. 6, which was Blue Shirt Day, part of a campaign put on by anti-bullying and cyberbullying youth organization STOMP Out Bullying™. The group connected these ideas with respect by brainstorming examples of respectful behavior. Ninth-grade students from the Southwoods Action Group (SWAG) acted as guest speakers and presented to the younger students about what they could do to be “upstanders” and stop bullying.

Inspired by a TeacherTube video, the club and the ninth-grade guests wrote positive messages in colorful footprints that Melinda Dunnwald, a parent volunteer, and her family had prepared on the sidewalk outside the school with Principal Graham Jones’ approval. The group also wrote on cut-out paper footprints, which they posted in the school hallways. Students now walk on the outdoor footprints every day, and many of the indoor footprints have stayed up as well. Tigges’ door is still covered in footprints.

“The whole idea was making a positive footprint,” she said. “You never know who might read your message.”

That positive focus attracted the attention of the National KCC and the AAF. Dunnwald submits summary reports of each Jordan Creek KCC meeting to the National KCC. She submitted the October meeting report to the STOMP Out Bullying™ organization as well. A photo of a ninth-grade twins with their elementary-age twin siblings at the meeting ended up being featured on the STOMP Out Bullying™ website. The National KCC liked that Jordan Creek’s KCC was spreading a positive message beyond its own building. Dunnwald was contacted by Elise Henson, manager of generationOn clubs, on Nov. 5.

GenerationOn is a youth service organization that encompasses the National Kids Care Club. It was looking to support a student group as part of a partnership with the AAF. After being presented with several options, the AAF chose to approach the Jordan Creek KCC about a collaboration with the student AAF chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the largest chapter in the country.

Tigges and Dunnwald initially thought the AAF students would design some flyers for the group, or help them come up with a catchy slogan. They soon realized the scope of the intended project was much broader.

Students from Urbana-Champaign’s AAF chapter and their adviser, Steve Hall, visited Jordan Creek to learn more about the club and its impact. The AAF students observed the Jordan Creek KCC and interviewed Jordan Creek students, staff, and parents. They wanted to know what the club thought it would take to change the student mindset about bullying.

The 500-person chapter, the largest in the country, brainstormed ways to support the Jordan Creek KCC. They envisioned using Jordan Creek to pilot a campaign, before spreading it to larger audiences.

“This is a huge opportunity for our district,” Dunnwald said. “Yes, this is a starting point, but they wanted to take it even further, to the district and the city.”

The Jordan Creek KCC continues to complete acts of service, cleaning the elementary school and taking part in the districtwide Heart Connection campaign. The AAF students returned to present their campaign ideas to students and teachers at Jordan Creek in April. They will later share their ideas with the National KCC, with the potential to take the campaign nationwide. The breadth of the project is still undecided, but even without an official campaign, the Jordan Creek Kids Care Club continues to spread a message of positivity and good character.