The Kindness Group
All students in their senior year in the BSW Undergraduate Program at the University of Southern Maine are required to complete a yearlong field work placement. To support and enhance this process, the students also attend a weekly seminar for the entire academic year. In addition, students are required to complete a Capstone Project. The intent of this Project is that it will have a lasting impact after the student has left their placement. Over the course of the academic year 2017-2018, Kim Lamothe was placed at a Middle School in the Mid Coast region of Maine. For her Capstone Project, Kim came up with the concept of the Kindness Group after reviewing the School’s mission statement, which talked about providing a safe, positive environment for all students whereby respect and appreciation for all differences is the norm. Using her assessment skills and theories that she had covered in her other social work classes, Kim realized that the School could do a better job in realizing these goals. The Kindness Group was an open group. Flyers were distributed throughout the School encouraging students to attend. The Group also used actionable activities, for example, students designed posters and t-shirts. They had a Twin and Triplets Day in which students coordinated outfits. Students were encouraged to listen to their peers and try and imagine what it must be like to walk in their shoes. As part of the long-term legacy activity, the students along with a number of community partners held a yellow tulip project. In the fall semester, they planted hundreds of tulip bulbs. These bulbs all bloomed in the spring and the students dedicated these tulips to those who were suffering from mental illness. Each week in the seminar Kim discussed the Kindness Group. She talked about the successes and frustrations of the Group and all of her peers were extremely supportive. At the end of the academic year, Kim presented her Capstone Project to the class. Everyone was extremely impressed with the work she had undertaken. In addition, Kim and I presented this work at the IASWG 2019 Symposium at NYU. Again, at the Symposium Kim was met with numerous accolades. It was apparent to all that this peer support group had created and cultivated a positive inclusive environment for all.