Laura Reiss created Kindness Matters 365 to teach kindness curriculum to students across the United States.
Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Laura Reiss, who was a Top 10 finalist for the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Award in 2018. Each year L’Oréal Paris and Points of Light recognize and celebrate Women of Worth who make a beautiful difference in their communities. Ten honorees each receive a $10,000 grant to support their most cherished cause, and an online vote determines one honoree who will receive an additional $25,000 grant. Nominations for 2019 are now open! If you know a woman who works to create lasting and significant change in her community, nominate her to be one of the 2019 Women of Worth.
“My commitment is that every person in the world finds their soul’s purpose, their happiness, and is the best version of themselves that they can be,” said Laura Reiss.
“Gratitude, compassion and kindness” is the magic formula that Laura encourages all of us to apply to situations that arise in our everyday lives. Laura’s parents taught her the importance of gratitude and giving back. When she became a parent herself, Laura found that their approach worked for her own daughters, and she wanted to share the values of her upbringing with other students at her children’s school. She had the simple but profound idea that kindness matters, and that sharing specific strategies for diffusing tension and building community would create kinder relationships and a better world.
In 2008, Laura approached school leadership and started an after school club with 35 children that has grown exponentially and includes 159 programs in nine states. Laura believes that the impact her original club had on students, teachers, administrators and the entire school community is what catalyzed other parents to approach her, wanting to learn her curriculum and start programs in their own communities.
Laura’s organization, Samaritans365, more commonly known as Kindness Matters 365, teaches a kindness curriculum to students throughout Florida and the United States in school, camp and community-based kindness programs. Lessons and activities provide leadership, experiential learning and social-emotional learning opportunities that take a proven approach to creating a kinder world, both now and for generations to come.
The core mission of Kindness Matters 365 is to create global kindness and, to that end, Laura finds ways to incorporate community organizations, parents, schools and children of all ages into her curriculum. Most programs operate in public schools, but some have been started at camps, community centers and in private schools. Laura’s curriculum encourages participants to work with local community-based organizations and nonprofits to create experiential-learning projects, such as serving meals at a local soup kitchen or cleaning kennels at an animal shelter.
Based on initial requests from other parents, Laura put her curriculum into action by training a cadre of certified ambassadors to teach kindness and implement service learning in their own neighborhood schools and communities. In 2014, just a few years after starting the single club in her local elementary school, Laura incorporated Kindness Matters 365 into an official nonprofit organization.
In early 2019, Kindness Matters 365 piloted their first of many Kindness in Schools programs. Through Kindness in Schools, kindness is implemented throughout entire schools as a part of their curriculum – in classrooms, aftercare, morning announcements – and other school wide assemblies, service projects and activities. Rooted in social and emotional learning, the program is helping teachers to be teaching ready, and the students to be learning ready. Everyone involved acquires and applies the skills necessary to be self-aware, manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and have empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. In less than two months, five additional schools signed up for the program.
The kindness movement that began as a single club at Laura’s children’s school has now spread to nine states, with more than 500 ambassadors and 4,770 members across 159 programs. As part of their experiential learning and community service projects, these programs have collected and distributed $1,347,300 in goods, supported 45,800 individuals, raised $2.5 million in disaster relief and reported 613,213 community service hours.
Alongside this sizable impact, the program has the capacity to transform the individual students who participate. Shari Kline, a certified ambassador who hosts the club at a Florida elementary school, shares a story of a young boy who often acted up during club meetings and disrupted speakers. School administrators offered to remove the boy from the club, but based on the principles of inclusivity and patience that are integral to Kindness Matters 365, he continued to participate.
During one meeting, an organization that held an annual camp for children with cancer presented, and the boy sat rapt. As Shari remembers, “At one point he raised his hand and asked if they had any other spots available at camp. He shared that his sister had leukemia. They were able to find a spot for his sister, and this kid became a different person. You don’t know what a little kindness can do. What in his life will he go on to do? Years from now, we are going to see a change in the world. If you grow up learning kindness, it can change everything.”
The Kindness Matters 365 model is easily adaptable to other communities, schools and neighborhoods, allowing the organization to grow and expand to serve people outside of its original service area. By tapping certified ambassadors as leaders, Kindness Matters 365 needs only one advocate in a community to get started, making the organization one with limitless potential. The curriculum is created and shared online, and is available to those who are interested in implementing it in their own communities anywhere in the world.
“In my left hand, I hold my three children, who are the most important thing in the world to me,” said Laura. “And in my right hand, I hold the betterment of the world. Without exaggeration, it is my commitment to leave this world better having been here. I created what I think is a really powerful formula to give to people, and an effective program to internalize it and then go out into our world and make it a kinder place.”