ORLEANS — Dr. Kim Mead-Walters had a bit of a shock when she arrived at Truro Central School to pick up her sixth grader. “Jeremy was caught in the act,” someone told her, but it turned out that was a good thing. When the school spotted a student being kind to someone, his or her name was recorded in a book.
That wasn't the first or the last act of kindness of Jeremy Walters's life. “He was the kindest kid, he truly was, with the people he knew, the people he didn't know, with animals,” Mead-Walters told The Chronicle last year.
In 2016, Mead-Walters lost her youngest son, then a 16-year-old junior at Nauset High, to suicide. After realizing that “the best way to honor Jeremy's life is to share kindness,” the family created Sharing Kindness. The organization is dedicated to increasing awareness of suicide risk, decreasing the stigma of mental illness, educating communities to reach out to those who are struggling, advocating for a mental health curriculum in schools, and supporting families who have had a loss like theirs.
Feeling connected “is one of a handful of factors that protects young people, that lowers the risk for suicide,” Mead-Walters noted Aug. 3 at a gathering on the Village Green to celebrate the kindness of six Nauset High students: Sam Coehlo of South Yarmouth, Cam Fichter of Yarmouthport, Katie Leland of Chatham, Maxwell Moran of West Dennis, Matt Moreau of Truro, and Chris Pombo of Brewster. Coehlo, Moran, and Moreau were able to attend.
At the start of the school year, posters announced, “Hey Nauset, Help Build a Community of Kindness!” Everyone was encouraged to “notice a student going above and beyond for someone on campus.” Each recipient was given a $500 award “just for being helpful to others.”
“The stories are beautiful,” Mead-Walters said. “Being kind to another student, in one case to a transfer student sitting alone at a cafeteria table on her first day at Nauset. In another case to a differently abled student assigned to work on a group project as a team, and another story about a teacher who had forgotten her lunch. And the student noticed. And appeared with a lunch tray for her.”
On another front, Sharing Kindness joined the discussion within the Nauset schools on providing quality care to students. Mead-Walters said that the system is hiring a psychiatric nurse practitioner who will work on Saturdays so he or she can meet with both students and parents.
Before they parted, each students was given a shirt printed with a quotation from Plato, a message they and the family of Jeremy Walters continue to convey: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Learn more at sharingkindness.org