Shannon Poulsen | May 03, 2014
SALEM — As students at Salem Hills High School made their way down the hall past the school’s office, before changing to their next class, they were greeted by Principal Bart Perry, who gave them all high-fives as part of showing an act of kindness.

It’s part of the new happy and positive project Perry has brought to his school, a plan that’s been in action since early February.

The goal was to reduce the number of students feeling pressure from the demands of school and to help prevent teen depression and suicide. Since the project has become a part of these students’ daily routine, Perry said he has seen a difference in students.

“I knew this was not something that would happen overnight,” Perry said. “It has taken much thought, preparing and getting everyone on board, but it is happening now and I am thrilled.”

The happy and positive project came from a short video clip Perry watched. He instantly wanted something similar to happen at his school.

“I presented the idea to the staff over a year and a half ago and again when I met with my leadership team,” Perry said. “It has been a part of our school improvement plan this year and we are so pleased with the success of it.

“My life has changed because of it and I know it has changed our students, too.”

The happy and positive project is part of each student’s and staff member’s daily routine. Perry bought composition books for everyone, which are used as their happy and positive journal.

There are five steps to the project. The first is each morning the students and staff are asked to write down three things they are grateful for. The second is to write down one positive experience they have had in the past 24 hours. The third is to implement exercise into their daily schedule. The fourth is to take time each day to stop and meditate. The fifth is to provide one random act of kindness each day and record it.

Perry said research shows people are 31 percent more productive in all they do when they are positive.

“We will try to keep that positive momentum going at school,” Perry said. “I really believe that we can rewire our whole outlook on life, and in the process see the world in a much better light.

“By working together we can change the world.”

Sophomore Sam Callister said he has seen a difference in his own life with the new project. As a baseball player at the school, he has a challenge just keeping up with daily school work.

“Some nights I am lucky if I get an hour of down time after getting home from baseball before it is bedtime,” Callister said. “But as I have tried to be more positive and happier each day, I notice my life has gotten easier and I am not stressed with only having a little time each night to get everything done that needs to be.”

Callister said that each morning as he writes in his journal it allows him to recognize the simple things in life and the small acts of kindness that might really change someone’s day. He said he feels by taking the time to do this each day it teaches people to be happy and be grateful for making others smile.

During the start of class, when students are writing in their journals, each teacher takes a few minutes to have a student share an act of kindness performed the day before. This helps make the other students aware of ways to help others out.

“We never know what someone might be going through in their life or a trial that they might be experiencing,” Perry said. “If each day I can make even just one person smile, my job is complete and I can be happy with what I have accomplished.”

Senior Amelia Weight said she has enjoyed trying to find a way to do a random act of kindness each day, not only at school but in her family and community.

“I was washing my car recently at the car wash and I saw an elderly lady drying her car, so I approached her and asked her if I could help her,” Weight said. “She told me she recently lost her husband and I was her angel for helping her. That gave me such a wonderful feeling being able to help her and brighten her day.”

Weight said the feeling at her school is so great, and to see so many smiling faces up and down the hallways is wonderful.

“We are hoping that by doing this project, we can become an even better school, improve our already great culture and have a positive impact on student learning,” Perry said.

To watch the video shown to Salem Hills students, visit


Photo credit: A group of students holds their gratitude jounrals at Salem Hills High School on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald