Mini Mermaids ‘plant’ a kindness tree in the community

  • The kindness tree, created during the Mini Mermaids program, sits on a ledge in Waimea Coffee Company for all to see and add to. LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY
    The kindness tree, created during the Mini Mermaids program, sits on a ledge in Waimea Coffee Company for all to see and add to. LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY

WAIMEA — Every Wednesday for the past eight weeks, a small group of girls has met at Waimea Middle School for an after-school program called Mini Mermaids — a girls’ empowerment program patterned after a national program by the same name, co-created by Heidi Boynton.

It is part of a diverse offering of after-school enrichment activities funded by a five-year 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant for five Waimea-Hamakua schools. Mini Mermaids is all about building adolescent girls’ self-esteem through positive influences and trusted friendships, coupled with healthy movement.

“Self-esteem is extremely important for all youth and especially girls who are vulnerable to society’s discouraging messages to young women. Girls need to believe they can determine their own future and not be discouraged from fulfilling their potential — including pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM),” said 21st Century’s grant writer-coordinator Angela Thomas. “One of the grant’s primary drivers is to support STEM education, and the Mini Mermaids program is intended to help girls have the conviction and courage to pursue their dreams.”

Mini Mermaids’ Program Leader Kit Hill, known to the students as Miss Kit, incorporated art projects into the program as well as running and counseling. Their first art project was for Mini Mermaids to create their own vision board to help them think seriously about what they want in their life — to set and then visualize their goals.

Next, Hill also worked with students to create dream catchers. The culminating project for the program was creating a kindness tree — both as an art project but more importantly — to fulfill Mini Mermaid’s requirement of completing a community service project.

Hill learned about a kindness tree from a Facebook posting that originated in England. The idea was to create a beautiful tree to be exhibited in public as a visual reminder for all who see, to focus on ways to be kind and compassionate to themselves and to others in the community. It is a way to comprehend, count and commemorate kindness, she said.

To create a kindness tree, Hill’s Mini Mermaids collected leaves to be used as stencils, then cut out an array of leaves and shapes and wrote words of kindness, compassion and hope on the leaves. The tree was then posted inside Waimea Coffee Company in Parker Square on Kawaihae Road.

It was Hill’s hope that this service project would not only empower her Mini Mermaids but also the community at large. In the first few days that the kindness tree was put on exhibit, more than 10 people contributed words and names of people. It remains there currently and additional customers are invited to post their own words, messages, ways they were kind to others, or recognize someone who has gone above and beyond, with the hope that this will further inspire kindness.

Hill was asked to lead the Mini Mermaids program after having been involved in Waimea Middle School for three years, initially as a counseling intern from the counseling psychology graduate program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. She is now a wellness counselor in the community, collecting clinical hours toward mental health counselor licensure.

Waimea Middle School is currently recruiting students and adults for its fourth Quarter 21st Century Community Learning Centers classes, which range from “Making Math Delicious,” introductory and intermediate sewing, hands-on science and photography, to co-ed strength and conditioning training, and the art of comics.

For information, call Bernie March at 887-6090, ext. 226, email Bernie_Marsh@wmpccs.org, or go to www.WaimeaMiddleSchool.org. There is a fee for supplies for these after-school classes and scholarships are available.

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