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Fourth-graders spread kindness and charity, bottle cap by bottle cap

Business of compliments

Submitted Photo Front, from left in Nicole Wegrzynowski's fourth grade class: Jadyn Torres, Zoey Ziegler, Kayla Persons are part of the brainstorming groups charged with developing new product ideas. Back, from left: Teaching assistant Danielle Giordorno works with another brainstorming group, consisting of Ian Caughel, Anna DeLair, and Kylea Twoguns.

ANGOLA — “You’re beautiful.”

“You’re good as gold.”

“You’re as bright as a rainbow.”

“You’re as young as cotton candy.”

What kind words and what a kind way to start — or end — a day. At the Kind Kids Compliments store run by J.T. Waugh fourth graders, you can buy products containing these and other compliments — on a keychain or a necklace or a magnet — and give them to someone to have 24 hours a day.

Submitted Photo In photo, from left: Maleah Jimerson, Jewel Pierce, Payton Villa, Tessa Ludwig, Emma Ott were part of the founding members of the Kind Kids Compliments business. Now in fifth grade, they will help fourth graders taking over the business.

And these are compliments that keep on giving. The Kind Kids Compliments shop donated its $500 proceeds last year to Community Concern in Derby. That’s a point of pride for the student entrepreneurs who developed and managed the shop. Their goal is to spread kindness — ideally, world-wide — with profits going to a charity in their school district.

The notion of kindness and inspiration is integral to this student-run business, which also weaves in technological skills, inventory, budgeting, teamwork, organization and marketing. Their start-up was funded by a $250 grant from EdCorps/Real World Scholars, an organization that helps connect classrooms with the community.

“This started in January 2019 and it’s very rare to be accepted in the program mid-year,” says Lake Shore technology integrator Michael Drezek. “They assume there is not enough time to get up and running and be successful. They gave us a chance and we proved that it can be successful!”

Led by teacher Nicole Wegrzynowski during class flex time, the students developed their Mission Statement (“Our mission is to inspire people to spread joy throughout the world by giving compliments in order to unite the world together in happiness.”).

The students decided what to sell and how to produce it within budget — it could not be prohibitively costly or complicated to produce. They had to keep it inexpensive, simple, and consistent — but compelling. Thus, the idea of hand-designed compliments (written by students) on bottle caps was born.

Each compliment wearable is unique and handmade. The students trace circles on paper to fit the caps, then write or draw pictures on the circles. Student “builders” take over, dabbing a glue dot to seal the decorated circles into the cap, then attach the decorated “compliment cap” to a key ring, necklace chain or magnet backing.

Meanwhile, Mr. Drezek worked alongside the students to create a website, a business card (created with Buncee) with an embedded custom QR code linking to a commercial created with WeVideo and Green Screen technology, and a Twitter handle to help expand their reach and amplify their message and journey. “Through this experience, they’re learning to use social media in a positive way,” said Mr. Drezek.

Their products were first sold at Lake Shore’s Digital Citizenship Summit, where they ran out of product and had to take orders to keep up with the demand. They also had a display at the Summit so they could share their experiences with the school community. “It got so big so fast. It’s made me grow,” said Mrs. Wegrzynowski. “It’s amazing. Watching them work on the mission statement and what they came up with. I didn’t know they had that inspiration inside them. Every time I watch that video, I cry.” Kind Kids Compliments products even made it to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Philadelphia in June. So far, online sales are nearing $900.

All Edcorps shops close for the summer, but with school back in session, Kind Kids Compliments is starting up again. The original team of 4th graders is now in 5th grade. These students will mentor this year’s 4th graders who are taking over the business. With the new kids comes new ideas and new energy.

On a recent afternoon, Mrs. Wegrzynowski gave her students a brief history of the Kind Kids Compliments business, including their successes and challenges. She told them about how last year’s 4th graders could not proceed with t-shirts as their product because sizes would complicate things and costs would be too high. (“That was a let down,” one of the students commiserated.) She told them the bottle cap compliment line would continue, but it would be up to these 4th graders to come up with new ideas. They would be the ones creating a new marketing video and discussing what products should be added as well as where to donate this year’s proceeds.

“Our business is exclusively our classroom,” Mrs. Wegrzynowski reminded the students, who are responsible for keeping supplies and materials within budget. “We are not borrowing paper or markers from the office.” She emphasizes that she is the “facilitator – a kind of silent boss. You run the show. I facilitate, I help you with what you need.” Once she set forth the expectations and parameters, the students began brainstorming new ways to spread kindness around the world.

And thus, the business goes on, as do the compliments. If you would like to help spread kindness around the world, or just tell someone special that they are as young as cotton candy, the compliment magnetic caps sell for $1 each, with a $2 shipping charge online at shopkindkids.com.

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