Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Kindness Program at Third Street Elementary Expanding to Fairfax High School

Parent volunteers at Third Street Elementary School gave out Valentine’s Day cookies to fellow parents. (photo from Jocelyn Minton)

We end the week with a Valentine’s Day story of parents at Third Street Elementary School showing their appreciation for each other with cookies on Valentine’s Day. The cookies are an example of the random acts of kindness happening at the school as part of the curriculum “Making Caring Common.”

Now in its second year, the program, developed by the School of Education at Harvard University to foster a positive, caring culture of kindness in schools, is being co-chaired by Hancock Park resident and parent at Third Street School, Jocelyn Minton, Keely Gillman, and Marta Lucia Aguilar and carried out by a team of over 50 parent volunteers.

“We packaged up over 600 heart-shaped cookies to give away at drop off line as a way to say thank you to our parents and teachers,” said Minton. The success of the program can be seen in the enthusiastic response of parents, teachers, and students and now thanks to a happy connection between Minton and LAUSD Board member Nick Melvoin, the program will soon get underway at nearby Fairfax High School.  

Delighted parents and families enjoyed cookies on Valentine’s Day at Third Street Elementary School. (photo from Jocelyn Minton)

“It’s so exciting because they are planning to engage junior and senior high school students to lead the classes and run the program,” explained Minton. “High school is a lot different than elementary school, so it makes sense for students to lead the program since parents are not as actively involved.”

Melvoin, who started his career as a middle school teacher, told the Buzz he was looking for a research-based program that could teach the principles of kindness.

“I talk to parents throughout the district and everyone shares an interest in helping our kids be more kind and compassionate; it’s a bit like pushing against an open door, there was a lot of agreement, so we are very excited that we can bring the program that has worked so well at Third Street Elementary to Fairfax High School,” Melvoin told the Buzz when we spoke to him and Minton last week.

Coming out of COVID, we have seen the emphasis shift from academics to social-emotional learning (SEL), and it’s one of the core pillars of our curriculum for our students because we know it works and improves overall academic performance, explained Melvoin.

The challenge has been to scale programs across the district. Melvoin believes there are community members who want to get involved and the work that Minton and her fellow volunteers have done at Third Street can serve as a model of how the program could be implemented in other schools.

“My chief of staff volunteers at Melrose Elementary putting books away and helping out with other tasks, but I know they would love to have the opportunity to do something more,” said Melvoin.

“Harvard has the program but no one has the time to sort through it,” explained Minton. “We have done that and we are learning how to be nimble and respond to issues as they arise at school. We are all learning how to be empathic before we make a judgment. We are learning to widen our lens and really understand what is happening. We are teaching the kids that it is more important to understand than be understood.”

Teaching kindness at the elementary school level is very different than the high school level because it’s not reinforced explained Melvoin but, like Minton, he’s convinced it’s important.

“When you create a community of kindness, kids perform better academically and there’s better morale among the school community,” said Minton. “Our random acts of kindness take work but it changes the culture. We are creating a prescription that can be replicated. We have seen how the local businesses community has really enjoyed getting involved and our parents really enjoy it too.”

Minton is thrilled that Melvoin and LAUSD support expanding the program to

“I’ve never felt so passionate about anything,” said Minton. “With Nick’s support, I know this program will go further than Third Street. I want this to be bigger than Third Street, bigger than LA!”

Simple acts of kindness, like this Valentine’s Day cookie giveaway at Third Street Elementary, can change the culture of a school. (photo from Jocelyn Minton.)

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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