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Kindness Conquers All at Wisdom and Salk

November 17, 2017

Kindness Conquers All at Wisdom and Salk 001Wisdom Lane and Jonas E. Salk middle school students recently heard from motivational speaker and cofounder of the ReesSpecht Life Foundation, Richard Specht. The assemblies titled "Cultivate Kindness" coincided with both middle school's curriculum on kindness and the students summer reading book, "Pay it Forward" by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Specht, a former eighth-grade science teacher, created the ReesSpecht Life Foundation after the accidental death of his two-year-old son Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht, also known as "Rees," days before Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island. Specht spoke to the students about how his whole world changed that day.

Students learned about the power of a simple act of kindness through the eyes of Specht who told them about his personal experience after the death of his son. Strangers reached out to help him, without expecting anything in return. Due to the generosity that others were showing the Specht family, they wanted to pay it forward. The family vowed to do 500 acts of kindness and created pay it forward cards in memory of Rees. That is when the foundation was formed, urging others to participate in their own acts of kindness.

Specht also spoke about bullying and the importance of being respectful to others. Showing his passion for science, Specht used colorful liquids in beakers to represent how quickly one person can impact another.

"You have the power to raise others up or bring them down," said Specht. "I think you know which one you want to use. That is the definition of respect. When you do that you respect yourselves first, you respect others second and of course most of all, you respect life."

In addition, the students heard from author Catherine Ryan Hyde through a video message about why she decided on the age of 12 for her main character in her book "Pay it Forward" and stressed to students that they can make a difference in the world. Both Hyde and Specht reinforced the power of a chain of kindness.

At the conclusion of the assemblies, Specht handed out pay it forward cards and encouraged the students to find ways to show kindness to others, adding to the already 470,000 acts of kindness that has been documented through the foundation. In March, the students will participate in a multimedia awards show called "Lights, Camera, Kindness," where they will share their pay it forward stories through 60-second videos.

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