Honokaa students issue challenge calling on kids to help others

  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Hawaii Tribune-Herald Honokaa Elementary student body council members, from left, secretary Chrissie Perez, 12, president Raven Javier, 12, and Jayda Yagong, 11, are pictured at the school Friday.

It’s cool to be kind and the student body council at Honokaa Elementary School is challenging classmates — and the internet — to do just that.

In the light of more harmful online “challenges” that have recently gone viral on social media, the school’s study body council has countered with a challenge of their own — the random acts of kindness, or RAK, challenge.

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“And this challenge promotes positivity instead of negativity,” said sixth-grade student and student body president Raven Javier, 12. On social media, there have been challenges that promote negativity “and we decided to change that.”

A video posted online by the student council challenges viewers to do 10 random acts of kindness.

Their video can be viewed online at honokaael.k12.hi.us.

Random acts of kindness can include complimenting somebody, being there for someone who might be having a hard time or helping another student with their homework.

“My favorite random act of kindness is just simply throwing away trash or even just helping someone out when you get a chance,” class representative and fifth-grade student Jayda Yagong, 11, said.

Student body council adviser Chelsea Yagong said the idea stemmed from a conversation she had with some on the council after the state Department of Education issued a letter to parents regarding online challenges.

Concern over the “Momo Challenge” prompted the DOE to issue those letters to parents in late February.

“And so the students were asking me, ‘why are people so interested in negative posts?’” Yagong said. “I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know why people are so interested in negativity. And one of them casually said ‘too bad we can’t make a positive video and that go viral instead,’ and the rest is history.”

Yagong said student voice is important to Honokaa Elementary, and “empowering the students to know it’s OK to take a stand (for) something you believe in. It was an incredible opportunity for them to express themselves. We ran with it.”

The school began promoting the RAK challenge May 1.

Close to 400 people have viewed the video by Friday and two different schools — one in Vancouver, Wash. and another in Bahama, N.C. — have already found out about the RAK challenge.

“We know that they’re going to show their students the video and hope that they’ll do the challenge as well,” Raven said.

Yagong said she has even submitted the video to the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

“Our hope is that we can go viral and promote positive things instead of negative things,” student body secretary Chrissie Perez, 12, a sixth-grade student, said.

Vice Principal Kori Takaki shared those sentiments.

“We kind of want to change the momentum of these social media challenges from being hurtful and negative, right, because some of these challenges are scary and they hurt people,” she said. “… And so I think what they really wanted to do was change how that goes. They’d rather see challenges that challenge people to do good things, positive things, because then we’re really affecting the change of more than just our school.”

The importance of such a challenge isn’t lost on the student council members.

“The RAK challenge is important because all those viral challenges have an impact on the world and the RAK challenge gives you the opportunity to grow and become a better person,” Jayda said.

Raven said real challenges should make people feel better about themselves instead of making them feel like they’re not good enough.

“I think it’s important because these negative challenge try to get you to do self harm, and we want to try to get this challenge to become better and help people become a better person,” Chrissie said.

Takaki said she hopes neighboring schools will get on board with the challenge, and maybe other schools will continue with similar types of positive challenges.

“We hope the momentum keeps going into the summer,” she said. “Because we’re going into summer, there’s lots of time to be on social media, so we’re hoping the positive stuff starts to grow and that the kids can continue that.”

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“The best part about this challenge is that this came straight from the kids’ heart,” Yagong said. “This is what they wanted. This is something that’s important to them. That’s really incredible — giving them a voice, having them feel empowered that their voice can make a difference.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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