Lincoln schools pioneer anti-violence initiative

Lincoln schools pioneer anti-violence initiative

LINCOLN - With song and silent observation, Lincoln High School students and faculty paid tribute last Friday to the lives lost in Newtown, Conn., a year ago.

As the school's select chorus sang "Where Are You, Christmas," students hung 26 white angels on the tree located in the main foyer, one to represent each life lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.

But it is not just a Christmas tree. Called the Tree of Life, and also featuring ornaments made in the special education life skills classes, it will be on display in the school all year along with students' personal codes of ethics, which are posted next to each other on the wall with the hope of one day stretching around the building. The same will happen at Lincoln Middle School.

This is part of WAVES RI, which stands for Working Against Violence Entering Schools.

Inspired by Rachel's Challenge, LHS secretary and former coach Rebecca Buontempo started the program in Lincoln as a way to start a chain reaction of kindness following the events in Connecticut last year.

Buontempo, who also runs the LMS Dream Team for Self-Esteem, said she has met with Gov. Lincoln Chafee and she is working to take the initiative to high and middle schools statewide. Elementary schools have not been included because of the sensitive subject matter.

"We're hoping Lincoln will be the role model," Buontempo said, adding that she almost became emotional during the ceremony. "I'm so proud of these kids. We will make a difference."

A chain of essays about codes of ethics one day stretching throughout the school will allow all students to express themselves anonymously, she said. The hope is to promote less judgement and more communication, and eventually, a more positive atmosphere.

LHS Principal Kevin McNamara said everyone looks for meaning in the wake of tragedy.

"This is a really positive way to focus energies and efforts," McNamara said.

Buontempo plans to make the second week of December each year WAVES RI's Acts of Kindness Week.

"When you do good, you feel good," she said, adding that a small bit of kindness can go far in preventing others from acting out on their anger. "If we stop one, we stop a lot more."

Several codes of ethics essays were already hanging on the wall for the ceremony Friday.

Equality, mutual respect, believing in yourself, helping someone smile and not walking away were some of the student ideals.

"If you show kindness to one person, they might show it to another person, who will in turn show it to others," one student wrote, "and eventually so many people will be affected and the world will become a better place."

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