"You are a motivator, a positive force, and an inspiration to us all. Thank you for setting the bar so high and for bringing such HOPE and deep empathy to this community.”
"You're one of the most dedicated, kind people I know. I admire your curiosity, wit, and empathy—your intelligence and compassion improve every conversation and make you a brilliant teacher.”
"I would like to appreciate you for being a fun and supportive friend. When I feel panicked or worried, your calm demeanor helps me chill out.”
Imagine receiving one of these appreciation messages . . . how would you feel? Valued? Appreciated? Loved? All of the above? The special sentiments above were written during Kindness Week, a tradition that Director of Social Justice and Equity Alegria Barclay started four years ago with the help of then Kindness Club President Anna Sandell ’18.
In past years, the Kindness Club, the club advisor, and Alegria posted envelopes all over the upper school walls for every student and faculty member. Community members wrote notes to one another, spreading love, kindness, and gratitude.
“At first, we thought about not doing it this year,” Alegria admitted. “But then we realized that people need to feel connected, and this project is very Nueva! People wanted an opportunity to show how much they care about their friends and community members. I believe in creating community—it’s at the heart of all the work that I do.”
Since there couldn’t be physical envelopes this year, current Kindness Club President Gavi G. ’21 created a Google Form to send to the upper school community. To the surprise of the Kindness Team, there were 4,243 submissions! Alegria was assisted by Lee Holtzman, Rob Zomber, Jennifer Paull, and Jo Newman. The team created a virtual wall, printed all of the messages, cut them out, and sent them to every upper school student. Each envelope arrived penned with a simple sentiment: “You are loved.”
Gavi created appreciation goodie bags for every teacher and staff member, complete with homemade cookies made by Kindness Club member Sarah W. ’22.
“We thought when we hit 2,000 messages that it was amazing,” Alegria noted. “Then, we couldn’t believe it when the messages doubled in the last 24 hours! There are multiple ways to create the Beloved Community, and some are not specifically related to social justice. It’s a testament to our culture of kindness and social-emotional learning. Our students embrace this activity every year. It really restores your faith in the world—they are such sweet kids!”
“Kindness Week this year has been an absolute blast,” said Gavi G. “In previous years, we’ve never been able to quantify how many appreciations are written—but this year we know that there were 4,000-plus! Of course, none of it could have happened this year without Alegria and her team of teachers, and Sarah—an extremely dedicated Kindness Club member and baker of more than 200 cookies for teachers. I was originally nervous that nobody would respond to a virtual form, as they can get buried easily, but it turned into a great success. Hopefully, next year we can return to envelopes lining the walls.”
A spark of kindness
Kindness Week began four years ago as a partnership between Alegria and the Kindness Club. Alegria thought it would be lovely to write a Valentine’s Day letter to everyone in the upper school.
“I approached Anna with an idea that I’ve always wanted to do, and it aligned really well with what Anna was doing,” Alegria recounted. “I could not have executed this idea without her. I remember the day we put up all of the envelopes—we were on campus until 2 a.m.”
The inspirational messages were dotted up and down the upper school stairwell. Alegria and her team vetted all of the messages to make sure they were positive and appropriate.
“People were so delighted . . . it was glorious!” Alegria remembered. “We even ran out of paper.”
Sadly, Alegria noted that Anna was recently in a serious snowmobile accident and has been recovering at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, NH. A sophomore at Dartmouth University, Anna is expected to transfer very soon to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
“Anna is on a slow and uncertain road to recovery,” Alegria added. “However, the outpouring of love she has received from the Nueva community is profound and a testament to how she embodied kindness. Indeed, the tradition of the Appreciation Wall is reflective of her deep kindness and extraordinary generosity of spirit that continues to live on at Nueva."