By Mandy Coriston
Sparta- Hundreds of middle schoolers from all over Sussex County gathered at the Sparta High School on Friday, Oct 25 for the 18th Annual Middle School Positive School Climate Summit, hosted by the Center for Prevention and Counseling. The day-long workshop brings in guest speakers and musicians, gives the students an opportunity to network with peer groups and high school mentors, and focuses on the ways that every child can prevent bullying and unkindness within their own schools.
The theme of the summit was “Kindness Matters: Always and in ALL Ways." This year’s keynote presenters were Kyle Scheele, renowned for his powerful motivational speaking and his quirky sense of humor, and musician and speaker Jared Campbell, an award-winning songwriter who uses his music to promote the power of individuality.
Scheel opened the morning program with stories from his childhood, growing up with brothers. He recalled having a dream once where he thought he was alone in a rugged, unfamiliar forest. It wasn’t until he woke up and went running smack into a wall that his siblings called out to him to see if he was okay.
“And that’s when it struck me,” Scheele said, “that I’d never been alone at all. Sometimes when we feel very lonely, we just need to look around and see who else is there.”
Scheele also encouraged the children to be mindful of their words and actions.
“It takes one person to lift someone up, and one person to tear them down,” he said, “but you can only BE one person. You only have one person to work with- and that’s you.”
Scheele and Campbell took the stage again later in the day, but not until the students had an opportunity to show off some skits and scenarios they’d been working on and have time for team building exercises and small group leadership sessions.
Campbell’s upbeat music and rapid-fire banter were popular with the group, who clapped and sang along with high-energy songs about kindness, personal accountability, and celebrating uniqueness in self and others.
“You have to have each other’s backs,” Campbell told the students, “Find ways to make your school feel like a family. And most importantly, remember not to quit being you. When you quit being you, you quit making history.”