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Washington Middle School Students Brighten UPMC Healthcare Workers’ Day

“What a lovely gesture! Thank you!”

“I have to say that little poem is so darn cute! Beyond words!”

“They are adorable. Thank you for thinking of us.”

These are some of the thank you notes from UPMC Chautauqua healthcare workers after they received a touching gift from Washington Middle School students. The students, with the help of English as a New Language teacher Cindy Spirit, painted 688 gratitude rocks and created a poem that the workers can carry with them as they do their important work. The students wanted to thank the local healthcare workers for all they do for their community.

“We at UPMC Chautauqua are very honored the Washington Middle School students were so thoughtful thinking of our employees, especially during these times,” said Megan Barone, UPMC Chautauqua development director. “Their kindness has inspired others and has given them a reason to smile knowing our community children are thinking of them each and every day. Thank you Washington Middle School students, we truly appreciate you making our days brighter.”

In December, Mrs. Spirit was looking for a way to give back to healthcare workers in the community. She had seen on-line a similar project with gratitude rocks and thought it would be an inexpensive, but thoughtful way to thank the workers. Mrs. Spirit found all the rocks, cleaned them and brought them into school where technology teacher, Andy Philhad, helped by priming and shellacking the rocks before the students painted them. Art teacher, Kevin Kyser, donated white paint to keep all the rocks consistent. Then, the students got creative painting hearts and words of thanks. As part of the process, Mrs. Spirit talked about mass production and how everyone had to work together, just like the healthcare workers do, to finish enough rocks for all the workers.

In addition to the painted rocks, Mrs. Spirit and the kids created a poem that thanked the workers. They printed the poems on small cards so that healthcare workers could carry the cards and rocks with them to remind them that someone cares about them in the community. The students signed the back of the poem cards with their thanks.

“The kids were so incredibly excited to work on this project. They are always willing and happy to help,” said Mrs. Spirit. “Everyone worked together in a positive way to create a really thoughtful gesture for our hard-working health care workers. Students really were excited for the opportunity to give back and I love seeing the confidence something like this builds into our student’s self-esteem. They know now how easy it is to make a difference, in even just a little way, in someone’s life.”

Mrs. Spirit hopes to see other schools and organizations do the gratitude rock project and is more than willing to teach them how to do it. Just email her at cynthia.j.spirit@jpsny.com for more information.