Students send personal care items, messages of appreciation to military personnel


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FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – As part of an initiative that seeks to build social awareness, students at the Clifton T. Barkalow Middle School collected food and personal care items for and wrote letters to United States military personnel who are serving overseas.

The Kindness is Contagious initiative was conducted from Nov. 11 to Dec. 1. During that time, students and staff members collected hundreds of items and wrote letters to military personnel. Administrators said 20 boxes were mailed to the military on Dec. 3.

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According to Leah Curatolo, the social emotional learning interventionist at Barkalow, items that were sent overseas included packets of Pedialyte and Gatorade, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, moisturizing face masks, microwavable popcorn, peanut butter-filled pretzels, peanut butter and cheese crackers, detergent pods, cereal, toothpaste, toothbrushes, travel-size shampoo bottles, travel-size lotion bottles, chocolate chip cookies, pistachios, peanuts, sunflower seeds, trail mix, ramen noodles, gummies, peanut butter and energy bars.

Curatolo said the school participates in Wellness Wednesday each week during which time students focus on social emotional learning and building social awareness.

In recognition of World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, the staff members decided that collecting food and personal care items and writing letters to servicemen and servicewomen would be an opportunity for the students to give back, to practice kindness and to build gratitude.

The Kindness is Contagious initiative was also inspired by sixth grade math teacher Margaret Kotran, whose daughter, Ashley, is serving overseas as an Army captain.

The personalized letters that were written by each student at the school were sent to the soldiers in Ashley Kotran’s unit, according to Curatolo.

The students also participated in a video for the initiative, which featured Margaret and Ashley Kotran. The video was filmed and edited by eighth grade language arts teacher Rachel Ryan.

In addition to Kotran and Ryan, Curatolo credited Principal Thomas Smith, Vice Principal Katie Harms, peer leaders Peggy Hall and Deidre Yozzo, and Student Council leader Lisa Marotta with helping the Kindness is Contagious initiative.

“Our principal, vice principal, staff and students truly came together as a community to make this possible,” Curatolo said. “Our peer leaders and our Student Council members have played in integral part in the Kindness is Contagious initiative.”

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