September has arrived and students return to another school year of uncertainty. If there’s one thing we know for certain at GiveThx, it’s that strong connections ease the isolation of the pandemic.
Ariela Lara, a joyful and effusive 10th-grader, knows this well. When you talk to Ariela you can’t help but smile. It’s hard to believe she ever saw herself as reserved.
But two years ago, she was a different version of herself. Though she had entered 8th grade feeling excited, the pandemic changed everything. Instead of sitting with her friends, she was now sitting in her room, alone, all day long, in front of a screen.
“I can’t put into words how hard that was,” she says. “Trying to balance the workload and pressure I’d put on myself felt like chaos. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
Fortunately, Ariela’s teacher, Mr. Donovan, offered students the chance to participate in an optional class that used GiveThx. Ariela didn’t know what to expect. She figured she’d give it a try.
“At first I would only send notes to my friends. But then Mr. Donovan would challenge us and tell us to send a thx note to someone we weren’t friends with. I can’t tell you how nerve-wracking that was! But it was also the push I needed to connect with others and step out of my comfort zone.”
One of those students was Miguel, Ariela’s partner in English class. She never expected that he would send her a note. Then, one day he did:
“I wanted to thank you, Ariela, for being so awesome. Believe it or not I look up to you and the way you do your work. I respect all you do and it makes me want to try my best.” -Miguel
“I had no idea that he felt that way,” says Ariela. “That’s when I started to realize that my actions have an impact. And that what I do can inspire others.”
GiveThx didn’t just help Ariela connect with students she wasn’t close to, it also deepened her relationship with her friends—and ultimately herself. At one point, she stopped sleeping and was struggling with her mental health. She didn’t think anyone noticed. Then her friend Sharana sent her a note telling her how much she loved and cared about her. It was exactly what Ariela needed to hear.
“I have a hard time allowing myself to take a break. GiveThx helped me find balance. It helped me realize that I am more than my grades. And that I can learn to love and appreciate myself.”
The following year, Ariela did something she never saw herself doing: she joined the student leadership council and successfully ran for president. In her position, she organized a schoolwide event called the GiveBack Drive-Thru, raising donations for a Family Emergency Shelter. She credits her growth as a leader, in part, to GiveThx.
“GiveThx made me feel confident in school and in life. Each note we gave each other was like a seed that allowed us to blossom like flowers. Gratitude is one of my core values that will stick with me for the rest of my life.” -Ariela
Reflecting on her first couple days back at school, Ariela says that the transition back has been disorienting, especially after so many months of being inside all day. Her high school doesn’t use GiveThx, but she wishes it did.
“Gratitude positively changes the environment we go to school in, providing a foundation for students, staff, and families to feel safe, welcomed, respected, encouraged, and included. I think every school should use GiveThx,” she says. “You won’t believe the impact that just one note could make. It’s not just a note. It’s a golden ticket. For your life.”
The pandemic continues to take its toll on students, on teachers, and on parents. We know GiveThx can help. Because when a student who feels isolated receives a note that she’s appreciated, she’s more likely to feel connected to others. When a student who feels bullied receives a note that he’s valued, he’s more likely to feel safe in class. And when a student who feels insecure receives a note that they are capable, they’re more likely to feel they can succeed in school.
As students head back to school, help us sustain and grow GiveThx’s mission. Like Ariela said, our actions have consequences even when we don’t realize it. Take action today by donating to GiveThx. Even the smallest gift has the power to be a “golden ticket” in a student’s life.