Teens in Doddridge County club prove all B.A.R.K., no bite
WEST UNION — The Bulldogs Acts of Random Kindness (B.A.R.K.) club at Doddridge County High School will be recognized by Reader’s Digest in the November issue as the Nicest Place in West Virginia.
B.A.R.K. was founded last year by Spanish teacher Jessica Berkey with the idea to create a group centered around acts of kindness that involved students and staff, Berkey said.
For the club, the “goal is to spread acts of kindness in our school and our community and just to try to make it a more positive place,” she said.
They do so by recognizing each student, group or staff member. One of their events is the Random Acts of Kindness Week involving dress up days and students giving positive notes to their classmates at the end of the day.
The next Random Acts of Kindness Week will take place in February, Berkey said.
The group also helped raised funds for local children with illnesses. Around $500 was raised for a former student battling cancer through money donations and T-shirt and bracelet sales.
Another donation was for a student from a rival school. When Doddridge County played Ritchie County in basketball, about $500 was raised for the student.
Their acts of kindness spread around the country, not just the county, Berkey said. Cards are sent around the country in different areas of need. Postcards were sent to Texas in light of the shootings this summer to “show that there’s still good in the world,” Berkey said.
Something new is to recognize each student’s birthday by giving them a pencil and a note.
“It’s something that I think is important for our school and our students,” Berkey said. “We have students that don’t necessarily do things to celebrate their birthdays.”
The idea for the group is to perform acts of kindness unexpectedly, Berkey said.
“We wanted to focus on being more random,” she said. “We have little positive notes that students in the club have access to when someone in the school needs cheered up a little bit.”
According to Adam Cheeseman, Doddridge County Schools Superintendent, “our B.A.R.K. club is truly an important part of our high school. It’s amazing to see the amount of work they do,” he said. “They really help with culture and climate. They pour love and kindness into the district.”
Students are appreciative of the positivity among the school environment, Berkey said.
Fifteen students started out the club last year but this year, so far the number is around 35.
“The more students we have in the club, the more we’re able to do and that’s exciting,” she said.
Berkey nominated the club to Reader’s Digest earlier this year by submitting information about the project they’ve completed.
Reader’s Digest “selected one place in each state that exemplifies kindness and civility in a time of American divisiveness,” according to a release from High10 Media.
“I was speechless when I found out they picked a small school,” Berkey said. “It was an honor to be recognized and be the representative from West Virginia.”
The students are what made this happen, she said.
“This is just a representation of the hard work of my students in the club and the difference that they hope to make in being good people,” Berkey said.
The recognition also could not be possible without the support of the administrators and the superintendent, Berkey said.
“(Our) county has a strong focus on the holistic child and without that focus, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do for our school,” she said.
Candice Black can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.