Armed with video cameras, big hearts and a want to make a difference, students from Spectrum community school are conducting random acts of kindness throughout Greater Victoria.
The surge of good deeds comes as the school aims to put a positive spin on a dangerous social media trend, known as neknominations.
“Neknominations work by you videotaping yourself doing something stupid and then you nominate other friends to do something equal or worse, basically,” said Spectrum teacher Nick Van Iersel. “So we call ours SpecNominations, and the challenge is really straight-forward: do something that will leave the world in a better place than you found it.
“It came out of a concern of ours around neknominations; we knew some of our kids had been nominated.”
Van Iersel launched SpecNominations on Feb. 17 with a video of him paying for a coffee and muffin for five people at McDonald’s.
“That is the nicest thing ever,” the McDonald’s employee tells him of his $8.35 purchase.
Within two days of Van Iersel posting his video to YouTube students began spreading positive change and posting their own exploits to social media.
“One thing that really spoke to us was helping the less fortunate,” said Grade 12 student Pius Cuizon. He and friends Sage Barlow-Young and Jenna Lancaster were nominated by Van Iersel, and the first students to accept the nomination.
The trio, along with Cuizon’s sister Eurica who filmed their good deeds, purchased 10 hamburgers and a large pizza, and offered hot food to Victoria’s homeless on a cold February night.
“At first I thought it wasn’t a big deal, but I realized at the end of it that a little really does go a long way,” Cuizon said. “As long as you give the best you possibly can and have a heart and want to help others, you can make a difference.”
At the end of their video, the Grade 12 students nominated their entire grad class to take on the challenge.
Less than two hours after seeing the video, Kat Gosselin and Rahim Khan had approached half a dozen homeless people and bought them more than $150 worth of food, sweaters, shoes, socks and a sleeping bag.
“We just asked them what they wanted; if there was anything that they needed,” Gosselin said. “They seemed stunned at first. They were so thankful and so happy. It made my day. I was getting jitters buying all the stuff because I was excited to see their reactions.”
Victoria police Const. Paul Brookes is involved with the Greater Victoria school district’s Youth for Change and Inclusion group. It was during a meeting of that group when Van Iersel first pitched the idea of SpecNominations.
“Everybody understands the philosophy of giving, but so often they don’t go out and do it. And this kind of movement is giving that extra push to move kids out of their comfort zones and discover how gratifying, how wonderful these kinds of things are,” Brookes said. “It sets them up for life to be those change agents in our community.”
Cuizon said he came away from the experience with an even greater understanding of generosity. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you have to give, everyone has the potential to make a positive difference in their community, he said.
“I find that people over-think giving a lot. You don’t need to be rich to help. We’re all students right now. Just because you don’t have a lot of money shouldn’t stop you from helping other people,” he said. “It feels great to trigger something onto someone to do something different, do something good.”
Since launching two weeks ago, SpecNominations have extended to individuals outside of the school’s hallways. Students from other Saanich schools are taking up the challenge, as are Saanich police officers. Gosselin even nominated a friend in the United States.
“It just seemed like it was a such a great idea to put a positive spin on neknominations. I have my opinions on how those are unnecessary – it’s really kind of a stupid act. But I thought this would be a great way to make someone’s day,” Gosselin said.
To see the random acts of kindness videos from Spectrum students and teachers, search SpecNominations on YouTube.com.