UPDATE: The Huffington Post chose Aria Novak as its "Greatest Person of the Day" for Nov. 7— an honor recognizing people who confront issues in their community with creativity and passion.
When a bully bothered fifth-grader Aria Novak, she decided that instead of fighting back, she would be kind.
"I was on the bus one day and this girl was bullying me,” Aria said. “She was doing a joke to me, and it wasn’t funny at all.”
The bullying wasn't limited to her, of course. She saw other children name-calling or getting left out. Because of this, she came up with an idea: a day of kindness.
Her vision was to develop a “really cool” day, where everyone could, as simple as it sounds, be nice to each other.
“I wanted to make that change,” Aria said.
St. Charles Patch first reported on Aria and her in the spring. April 13 was selected as the day. Her school, , was the first to celebrate the day of bullying awareness.
For Time for Kind Day, students in each grade at Wild Rose were given an activity to do in class, Aria said.
"What our class did was we took paper and we wrote our names," Aria said. "Then, we passed it around the class and each person had to write something on that person’s name."
Novak said the students took their pieces of paper, covered in kind, handwritten remarks, home with them.
"It felt really good," she added.
Some students also apologized to others for bullying, Aria said.
Aria's simple idea has become part of the school's culture, said Wild Rose Principal Donna Clavelli.
“What Aria has started has become more of a theme of how we need to be as adults, and how we need to be as students, here and beyond," Clavelli said.
As an extension of the idea behind Time for Kind, Wild Rose students attending a recent town hall meeting were read a story about kindness and respect. Then they broke into groups to discuss the reading.
"Her idea is to me a theme-setter," Clavelli said. "It’s bigger than just bullying prevention.”
In October, the School Board voted to expand Aria’s day for kindness districtwide.
“Every day, in our district, we have the future CEOs, future politicians. The future of our country is in your classrooms,” said Don Schlomann, the district's superintendent, at a teacher conference earlier this school year.
“It’s always amazing to me as superintendent because I get to see these amazing things happen," Schlomann continued. “And one of those amazing things is (Aria Novak), who came to me and said, 'I really think we can change the way we think about bullying, the way we treat each other.' "
Aria's plan now is to contact other school districts with her anti-bullying initiative. She's reached out to first lady Michelle Obama and several television personalities in an attempt to get more promotion and spread the word.
"I think this is a really great opportunity," Aria said. "It helps kids through harder times and, if they have a problem or something, they can tell a trusted adult."