Post-Its promote positive spirit at Fairfield Ludlowe High
Updated 4:38 pm, Thursday, April 28, 2011
There is a bulletin board in the lobby of Fairfield Ludlowe High School covered with brightly colored Post-It notes. The notes have messages that say nice things about students -- and are written mostly by students.
It is, in effect, the anti-bullying board.
Officially dubbed Project POST (Promoting Optimism, Spreading Tolerance), it's the brainchild of 17-year-old Melissa Warten, a Ludlowe junior.
When she was a freshman, Warten accepted a challenge by a guest speaker -- a successful inventor whose battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma led to an infection that required amputation of both legs -- to create a project to promote tolerance, and acceptance at the school.
The result is Project POST, which in the opinion of Ludlowe Headmaster Vanessa Reale, is "bringing out the best in students."
While all the notes are unsigned, and those who are saluted are not named either, Warten believes this air of mystery is better than pinpointing who wrote what, even if it is all positive.
"I love the idea of anonymity," she said. "Who needs credit? We should be nice to everyone regardless of who the person is."
In addition, a Post-It note that states, "I can't believe you don't realize how amazing you are," could help boost the spirits of a student who just bombed a math test or help a disabled student feel better about themselves, Warten said.
"It's meant for everyone and that was the aim," she said. Blank Post-It notes were first handed out to Ludlowe students on April 11. No one was forced to write anything, yet more than 100 people took their time to contribute to Project POST before the school day was over. Notes began going up on the bulletin board on April 15. Now, with a flurry of postings, some sections of the board look like a multi-layered collage of purple, yellow, red and blue squares.
"I was happy with the idea and how far it had come, but the worst part was not knowing what other people would think," she said.
However, when Warten saw the response, "I was stunned," she admitted.
She said one goal of the project is to "touch all corners of the school and change the environment and maybe change the perspective one kid has of the kid sitting next to him, that he's never spoken to, and really increase the positive energy.
The following are just a few examples of the notes that were on display Monday afternoon: "You're beautiful," "You Make the Ones Around You Happy With Your Charming Smile," "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (with a smiley face drawn in the middle), "Happy Birthday," "You Have a Sense of Humor" and "Go Get 'Em."
The also are fragments of song lyrics, as well as observations like: "Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the air" and "Aerodynamically, the bumblebee should not be able to fly. However, no one told the bumblebee this, so it goes on flying anyway."
While the project at first glance seems simple, Project POST required Warten to, among other things, meet with Reale several times to secure use of the bulletin board; to place an ad in the school newspaper; have the notes reviewed by school staff and officials to make sure they are appropriate for posting; secure funding for the Post-It notes, pens and envelopes needed to carry out the project; and to promote the cause and spread the word about it through the sale of Project Post bracelets.
The school paid for all the supplies, Warten said, so she plans to donate funds raised from the bracelet sales to the Pay It Forward Foundation.
Friends, she said, were instrumental in spreading the word about the project amongst their friends and classmate. Students in different grades and various sports teams put up posters and helped hawk the Project POST bracelets. Her brother Kevin was also recruited to get the word out to friends in his freshman class.
Organizing the effort, she said, "gave me a lot of responsibility that I had to work through, but at the same time it forced me to not be afraid to ask for help."
But when the notes started appearing on the bulletin board, all the stress of Warten's busy schedule, which included checking out colleges on her spring vacation, were forgotten.
It made her day, she said, when she saw a group of boys crowded around the bulletin board pointing at the notes they liked. "I knew going in it was a good idea," she said. "The worst part was not knowing what other people would think. I knew the result could go one of two ways. It could just be a bunch of Post-It notes on a board, or it could be something that brings people together, and makes them feel better about themselves and the environment we share in this school."
Reale, who called Warten a caring, compassionate and optimistic person, said the bulletin board provides a forum "that allows us to reveal the true character of our students."
Warten's friend, junior Casey Revman, said Project POST is a great asset for the high school.
"I liked how the project made people avoid negativity and feel good about themselves and others," she said. In fact, Revman added there were so many great comments submitted it was "hard to find the right quotes to put on the board."