Today, on the Carlsbad People, Purpose, and Impact Podcast, Bret Schanzenbach talked with Jill McMonigal, the co-founder and executive director of Kids for Peace. Jill shared how Kids for Peace began, how the Great Kindness Challenge has exploded into a global movement, and how schools and companies can become kindness-certified.
The following material has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Jill is a USC graduate and, before she had her kids, she was an elementary school teacher. While she was teaching, she wrote school musicals for her students at the school and her church. Her desire has always been to serve others and help kids.
Her journey to become the co-founder of Kids for Peace began at a Memorial Day Weekend neighborhood party in 2006. There, Jill met Danielle Graham, a high school student whose passions mirrored her own:
“Gandhi is one of my personal heroes and I used to wear a Gandhi pin… [Danielle] came up to me and saw my button… We got into this very philosophical conversation about the meaning of life and our purpose and [had] just like this kismet between us. And next thing we know, we're both saying how we want to create something that will bring more peace into the world.
This was post 9/11, so we both were acutely aware and sensitive to the fear that was permeating everything still. And so, we knew that we had to do something together to create peace. And then with Gandhi being my hero, she knew about this quote [from] Gandhi, ‘If we're to achieve lasting peace, we must begin with the children.’ So, with that quote and with our discussion, we're like, ‘Let's do something with kids.’”
Together, Jill and Danielle asked Jill’s kids and kids from the neighborhood what kind of world they wanted to have and what they would do to make a better world a reality. From those questions, Kids for Peace was born and they created the Peace Pledge, which served as the guiding force for their organization.
The Great Kindness Challenge: The Movement That Became a Wildfire
Kids for Peace was such an innovative idea that it expanded and became an international movement, even though they did not have a website when they began. In 2012, they launched the Great Kindness Challenge, which was originally a one-page checklist so that schools could implement a week-long kindness challenge. Initially, they began this program at three schools in Carlsbad: Jefferson, Hope, and Kelly Elementary, which is where the Kelly Elementary School shooting occurred in 2010. The Great Kindness Challenge was designed to proactively address and stop bullying by creating a loving, unifying environment in school, which would then overflow into their community and the world.
From those three schools, the Great Kindness Challenge grew to include over 250 schools the following year. This growth was due to word of mouth among teachers and educators, and the next year, in 2014, over 1,000 schools were involved.
Then, in 2015, they brought on Asia Moore, who structured their programs and internal systems, so they could grow even more. She helped them get a website and streamline their sign-up systems, which allowed more people to access their tools and also opened opportunities for sponsors to contribute to the movement.
In 2017, Kids for Peace was featured on Good Morning America for the entire week. After that week, Good Morning America requested if they could do something for their viewers who didn’t have kids. This led Kids for Peace to launch the family edition of the Great Kindness Challenge. They bought a bus (the Happy Bus) which they redesigned and painted, so they could take the Great Kindness Challenge on the road. The following year, Good Morning America asked them to have the Happy Bus in Times Square. From Times Square, they drove back to Carlsbad, CA, stopping along the way to do acts of kindness throughout the nation. Last year, over 28,000 schools participated in the Great Kindness Challenge. This movement spanned the globe, involving 115 countries and over 17 million kids.
As Jill says, “No matter what our political affiliation is, what our spiritual or religious affiliation is, [or] what our socio-economic status is, kindness is the only thing I've found that we could all agree on. That is a unifying force and it gives us a starting place to be better as a society.”
How to Become Kindness-Certified
As they continue to invite the community to take part in the Great Kindness Challenge, Jill and Danielle have seen how it has impacted everyone from kids to elected officials. As they witnessed how businesses began joining their movement, they have recently expanded their focus to bring kindness to the corporate world. Kids for Peace offers certification for schools to be kindness-certified, and they are also piloting kindness certification for businesses in Carlsbad, with the hope of expanding that certification nationally.
In order to be a kindness-certified school or a kindness-certified school district, the school or district must participate in the Great Kindness Challenge. For a company to be a kindness-certified company, they must pay a fee and agree to:
- Be Good To Your People
- Embrace diversity, inclusion and equity
- Communicate with respect and kind words
- Celebrate and honor one another
- Support Our Community
- Make an annual donation of any amount to a nonprofit serving Carlsbad
- Volunteer for at least one community service project annually
- Be Kind To Our Planet
- Make environmentally-conscious decisions
- Take earth-friendly actions
- Create A Better World
- Do your part to create a kinder and more compassionate world
The Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce supports Kids for Peace’s kindness certification and lists kindness-certified companies in the business directory. Jill’s vision is for “every storefront in Carlsbad to have a kindness certified seal window decal.” As of now, there are 25 companies that are kindness-certified, and more will be joining this movement in the coming days.
If you have a business in Carlsbad or you know of a business that would like to become kindness-certified, click the link below!
Did you like what you heard? This show is produced by Imagine Podcasting dba of Heard Not Seen Media, Inc. For more, visit Imagine Podcasting at https://www.imaginepodcasting.com/.