A kind word goes a long way

By on March 11, 2015

Aevidum fills the halls of WHS with good vibes

Aevidum has filled the halls at Warwick with words of encouragement in an anti-bullying initiative that promotes a culture of caring. (photos by Laura Knowles)

Aevidum has filled the halls at Warwick with words of encouragement in an anti-bullying initiative that promotes a culture of caring. (photos by Laura Knowles)

Imagine walking down the hall and seeing a message that says, “My friend Steve is good at writing” or “My friend Kate is good at calculus.”

Wouldn’t that just make your day? Especially if you happened to be Steve or Kate.

There's something positive going on at Warwick High School, thanks to students like (left to right) J.J. Vulopas, Maddie Armstrong, Eric Homberger, and Morgan Harris of the Aevidum Club.

There’s something positive going on at Warwick High School, thanks to students like (left to right) J.J. Vulopas, Maddie Armstrong, Eric Homberger, and Morgan Harris of the Aevidum Club.

At Warwick High School, some 600 students, teachers and staff got just such pats on the back, with “hands” that praised them for their talents, whether it was their sense of humor, academics or style.

The hand-shaped messages were inspired by the Aevidum Club, as a way to signify that other students and teachers “have your back.” In many ways, it was exactly the opposite of all those mean messages that people get each day. Sort of, anti-bullying.

“All too often, people get messages about what they do wrong,” said Eric Homberger, a Warwick High School senior and member of Aevidum. “This was all about positive messages.”

In February, members of the club met before school to post positive messages on the school hall walls that were written by students during their lunch periods.

The messages were made to help promote a positive school environment, in which everyone feels appreciated. Students were asked to recognize something at which a classmate excelled and detail it on the yellow hand.

Then they lined the hallway leading to the cafeteria with all the yellow hand messages.

“There were a lot of them, and it was fun to see all the positive messages,” said J.J. Vulopas, a senior and Aevidum member.

As Vulopas pointed out, the club was started at Warwick High School with the purpose of helping students feel fully accepted. The original Aevidum was started at Cocalico High School in 2003, after the tragic suicide of a popular teen. The school advisor to the club was teacher Joe Vulopas, J.J.’s father.

“I was only six back then, so I grew up knowing I wanted to become part of Aevidum,” he said.

As he pointed out, the four traits of a successful school environment are that students feel accepted, appreciated, acknowledged and cared for. With some 50 members in Aevidum, the mission is to bring everyone together in a positive way.

Although the club is often associated with its mission of suicide prevention, the concept of fostering positive feelings among all students is central to the club’s purpose.

“We have all been affected by suicide,” said Maddie Armstrong, a sophomore who lost a family member to suicide.

Other students have lost friends, family and acquaintances to the effects of depression, and understand how painful it can be for those who are left behind. The feelings of grief are intertwined with guilt and regret that no one was able to help the person who was depressed and considering suicide.

“It’s hard to know what is in someone’s mind,” said sophomore Morgan Harris. “So we have to always treat each other with kindness and acceptance.”

Feeling acknowledged and accepted started on the first day of school for the Warwick High School students, when the Aevidum Club made 1,500 yellow hands welcoming students back to school in September.

“Every student in the school had a hand,” said Harris, adding that it brought a lot of smiles.

There were many smiles again in February when the next flood of “hands” were displayed in the halls. Traits such as being funny, dressing well, playing sports, being artistic, being musical and being helpful were acknowledged. Some were cited for being good at rock climbing, running, dancing and reading. A few were honored for unique talents, such as having “sass” and “being Batman.”

Some of the hands were for teachers, especially ones who had been especially influential in building self-esteem among their students.

“Our teacher advisor is Lisa Gleason, who deserves a hand for everything she does for us,” Vulopas added.

Aevidum has more plans for fostering acceptance and appreciation this year. They are planning a thank you project for school custodians and other staff who work behind the scenes and need to be acknowledged.

“What we want to do here at Warwick is to create a culture of caring,” Vulopas said. “We all need to feel that someone cares about us.”

Laura Knowles is a local freelance feature writer for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com. 

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