Stony Brook Students Aim To Make Compassion Fashionable
"Actively Caring for People" fosters kindness through technology
People often complain that civility has become an afterthought in today’s fast-paced, technology-oriented society. With a new program called Actively Caring for People, students at Stony Brook University are striving to change that perception — by fostering kindness and compassion using technology and a plain plastic bracelet.
Actively Caring for People began at Virginia Tech following a deadly school shooting.. It was used to build and promote a strong, close-knit community throughout the campus after that horrific event. The idea has spread to many campuses and last year, members of the Stony Brook Residence Hall Association (RHA) and Stony Brook National Residence Hall Honorary jointly decided the program could be of benefit here.
The RHA ordered 100 bracelets that bear the name "Actively Caring for People" along with a six-digit tracking number. When a person wearing the bracelet performs a good deed, he or she logs in at ac4p.org and creates an account, explaining what they have done.
When that person later witnesses someone else on campus showing kindness, the bracelet is passed on, and the cycle continues. “The bracelets are not meant to be a reward but rather a tangible reminder of the environment we are trying to create,” said senior biology major Mariah Geritano, who is vice president of the RHA.
There are currently 40 bracelets in circulation.
“We came across this initiative through our regional organization (North East Association of College and University Residence Halls) and saw how it had a large impact on another school’s campus that was involved with the movement,” she said.
“Universities as large as Stony Brook can be overwhelming to some students. Students may feel marginalized or not cared about, which can lead to destructive situations and negative feelings toward themselves and the University,” continued Mariah. “We want to encourage students to reach out to others and step out of their comfort zones to help people in need. We’re excited to be the first school on Long Island so far to pursue this initiative.”
Nathan Blazon-Brown, a freshman biochemistry major, likes the chances for this program to take hold at Stony Brook. “I think it will see quick adoption here due to the kind nature of our students. As a freshman I was encouraged and amazed at how open-minded and inviting all of the students I met here are. I think that frequent, simple acts of kindness are often the most important kind in building a stronger community.”
Sophomore athletic training major Crystal Hong agrees. “It’s important to focus on the good things and examples of people caring for others especially when you turn on the radio and there are so many bad and scary stories. You have to start somewhere.”
Geritano hopes it can go mainstream. “We’re in touch with the founders at Virginia Tech and they have been guiding us through this process. “By pursuing a caring environment, we could possibly prevent events such as school shootings in the future.”
—Glenn Jochum; Photos by John Griffin