LIHUE — “You matter like a unicorn — you’re unique!”
That’s just one of the slogans, compliments and pump-you-up phrases that will be floating around Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School this week as part of the student-led, “You Matter Campaign.”
“We just want everyone to feel like they matter, because they do,” said sixth-grader Anika Reiss-Landreau, a campaign representative.
More than a thousand cards made by students in the sixth and seventh grade advisory classes will be distributed through the school. Each sports a saying designed to uplift and encourage.
“Sometimes kids feel like they’re left out and the You Matter cards we’re making, we’re going to give them to a person and make them really happy through the day,” said Fiona Godsill, sixth grade, also a representative of the campaign.
The cards were distributed Tuesday, and posters with inspiring messages were hung on the walls throughout the school. The graphic design class helped make some black and white posters, the student government is hosting a “Dance Like No One is Watching” event, and a video is being made about the experience for social media.
“All these little things are helping to celebrate the You Matter Campaign on campus so everyone feels like they matter,” said campaign organizer and faculty member Edwin Sawyer. “And it’s totally random. We’re giving them out to everyone because everyone matters.”
The cards are a positive twist on classic chain letters or emails — they’re passed from person to person, each signing their name to the back of the card until it is full.
Once the five empty spaces on the back of the card are full, the card is deposited into a box. Periodically, Sawyer said campaign representatives will draw a card from that box and the person belonging to the last name on the back of the card will win a prize.
“This is a week where we put a smile on everyone’s face, a week where our students realize that they’re important,” said sixth-grader Samantha Murphy.
While the focus is on increasing self-esteem and putting smiles on faces, the campaign is also to raise awareness of suicide among the youth in Hawaii.
“We’re trying to prevent that by telling them that they matter and they’re important,” Godsill said.
“I’m very excited the kids are doing a campaign called You Matter, we support that 300-billion percent,” said Gina Kahulukukui, vice chair of the Suicide Task Force. “I think that’s a good age group for us to be targeting.”
Kahulukukui said she hopes to see the kids from Chiefess Middle School join the Suicide Task Force’s Kauai Leaders Against Suicide program, which connects at-risk youth with people their own age.
“We know that most teenagers and middle school kids go to each other versus an adult first,” Kahulukukui said. “The more of us that can recognize the youth at risk, the better we are at being able to save those lives by getting them to a trusted adult and the help that they need.”
The cards at CKMS are for everyone because students recognize that not everyone shows it when they are sad or have had a bad day.
“Sometimes people are hurting inside, and if you give them a card, they might feel better,” said sixth-grader Reign Palama.
It’s not just the card recipients who benefit from the You Matter Campaign. Organizers said they’ve been reaping rewards as well.
“I had fun making this event happen because I like making people feel good about themselves,” said sixth-grader Marissa Matsushigo. “This also makes me feel good because this could also change the world.”
The campaign started about two weeks ago, said student Gianna Lewis, and the kids have been making scores of cards in the days since.
Murphy said she’s made more than 70 of the cards.
Their hope is that the campaign doesn’t stop at the boundaries of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, but that it will spread to other campuses on island.
“It helps people have a better life and lets them know through the year that they have friends they might not think about,” Godsill said. “You’re going to spread joy to the world, give someone a card, and make them feel happy.”