SPARTA, NJ - Sparta Middle School students celebrated the Week of Respect earlier this month with a variety of activities to promote kindness. To kick off the week, two youth motivational speakers, Kyle Scheele and Mike Marsteller, spoke to students about promoting kindness and how to eradicate bullying.

“It Only Takes One,” Scheele sspoke to the eighth grade students about how they can make a difference in the lives of others around them. Scheele's goal was to show students that “it only takes one person to change the world, and each of us can be that person.”

Marsteller presented “Cool to be KIND” to sixth and seventh grade students. The message he delivered was that students can learn how to turn their “obstacles into opportunities.”

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Marsteller kept the students' attention as he spoke, sharing the message is a way that in left a positive mark on Sparta Middle School.  After the assemblies were over students returned to their classrooms where they shared their feedback with their peers and teachers.

Seventh grade student Sharon Ferguson said, “I thought Mike Marsteller had a lot of good things to say. He had a really inspiring story.”

“Kyle Scheele was really funny. I laughed a lot," eighth grade student Liz Aldrich said. "He made it really clear that it only takes one person to make your day better, but it also only takes one person to make your day worse, so be considerate of how you treat people.”

In addition to the assemblies, students and staff wore blue shirts on Monday, October 2 in observance of World Day of Bullying Prevention. This annual nationwide event promotes a sense of solidarity among students and schools in their efforts to stomp out bullying.

Thursday, October, was Respect Yourself and Others Day. This day gave students the opportunity to spread kindness through "shout-outs" to peers and faculty members who have been recognized for acts of kindness to others. These shout-outs were read over the morning announcements and were added to the “Wall of Respect” in the cafeteria.

Students in 8th grade wrapped up the Week of Respect by participating in Scheele’s Viking Funeral project, a follow-up activity to his presentation. The students at Sparta Middle School join students across the country writing a negative emotion or feeling or attitude, something that they hope to let go of and leave behind them on a note card. These notecards will then be shipped to Scheele and assembled into scales similar to those of a dragon.  They will then be constructed into a giant paper Viking ship. 

At the end of the school year Scheele will take this life size Viking ship constructed with all of the note cards out to a field.  The Viking ship will be burned, with the purpose of commemorating the hundreds of students who are striving to be better persons, and at the same time leaving the person they used to be behind them.

The ceremony is intended to symbolize  the end of the way students used to be and celebrating the new attitudes of the students.

The whole performance will be videotaped for viewing at www.vikingfuneral.me.  

“If you’re truly going to become the person that you want to be, you are going to have to let go of the person that you used to be,” Scheele said.

Editor's Note: Jenna Mattesius is a guidance counselor at Sparta Middle School