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“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

That was the theme at Suffern Middle School on Wednesday, March 6, as students gathered for two separate programs aimed towards increasing empathy, compassion, and acceptance amongst peers.

For the third year in a row, the girls were a part of the Kind Campaign, a program created by a non-profit organization that brings awareness to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying. The sixth-graders were together in the morning, pledging to be kind, apologizing for things they may have done or said, and working together to spread kindness amongst them. Later in the day, the 7th and 8th graders gathered to do the same.

For the first time, the boys participated in a similar program created by the administration and staff at SMS called the Committee of MENtors. The program gathered all 500+ middle school boys together to listen to personal accounts of what it means to be a man, and how to navigate the tricky landscape of growing up while still supporting each other and building relationships. During one of the exercises, the boys were handed a worksheet with masks on both sides. One side represented their external self, the other their internal self. They wrote how they feel internally, and then how they show themselves. Several students and teachers shared their thoughts, creating an even deeper bond between them. The day was meant to dispel the myths of masculinity and to get boys thinking about what is most important to them in their lives and that it is ok to talk about your feelings as they arise.

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