Honking horns, hundreds of smiles, and supportive waves from commuters interrupted the daily routines of drivers and passersby on Tuesday, January 28, outside the Arlington Regional Learning Center in Riverside. Students, staff, parents, community members, and Riverside County Office of Education employees participated in the unique Happiness Sprinkling event aimed at encouraging positive reinforcement and selflessly brightening the day of others.
“We had some kids that weren’t sure it was cool, but they totally got into it and some of them asked me if they could stay out here all day,” said Joelle Hood, Principal at Arlington Regional Learning Center.
Police cars, fire trucks, tractor trailers, buses, cyclists, pedestrians, and thousands of commuters passed by the sign holders during the eight-hour event. One woman driving a pickup truck even pulled over to the curb and got out of her car to give hugs to the students. Local television stations ABC 7, NBC 4, CBS 2, and KCAL 9 interviewed participants and organizers who took one-hour shifts throughout the day.
Although planning began in November, the event took on new meaning for the entire school when Arlington Regional Center student Christian Cano was murdered on New Year’s Day.
“When I first started attending school here, Christian was one of the first people I met,” said Arlington Regional Learning Center student Bryan Walter. “Life ends too soon sometimes and today is a reminder that you’ve gotta live each day to the fullest.”
Started by Laura Lavigne in 2012, The Happiness Sprinkling Project (www.happinesssprinklingproject.org) often solicits surprised and puzzled responses from people being ‘sprinkled’ on their way to work/home as the encouraging signs ask nothing of the viewer, but instead helps people tap into their own hope, strength and joy. After the event, the signs will be shipped to the location of the next event.
“A speaker at the International Bullying Prevention conference reminded me that it is just as important to teach ‘pro-kindness’ as it is to teach ‘anti-bullying’. I want our students to understand compassion and empathy, and that is difficult to teach because it has to be experienced and discussed. I want to give our students as many opportunities as possible to know how good it feels to give to someone else, to do acts of kindness, and to make that kindness contagious,” Hood said. “I want our students to feel part of something bigger than them, to feel a sense of passion and purpose to make this world a better place, and that they do have the power to make a positive difference.”
Overheard At The Event:
“I’ve been at this school for many years and we’ve never done anything like this. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, but I saw everybody out here and signed up right away this morning. A lot of people need this—even I needed it this morning.” – Jesse Porras, Student, Arlington Regional Learning Center
“I never come this way, but I’m glad I did today. This is really cool—I really needed it.” – Unnamed pedestrian
“I finally feel like I’m part of the organization. I’m getting to do something above and beyond my job.” – Julie Carter, Accounting Technician, RCOE
“This morning is all about spreading love and kindness. If people are frowning today, there’s something wrong and we have to spread more kindness.” – Bryan Walter, Student, Arlington Regional Learning Center
“I was on vacation this week in San Diego and came back into town just to be a part of today’s activities.” – Eileen Phillips, Senior Accounting Technician, RCOE
“The teachers here show so much love and respect to these kids. “I’ve seen a big change with many of them. The principal gives her whole life and self to these kids, and all the teachers have love for these kids. They are selfless.” – Patricia Walker, Parent
“Some of the students here have made bad decisions, but they aren’t bad kids. Today, they’ve had a chance to spread kindness to the community and each other and they are really excited.” – Joelle Hood, Principal, Arlington Regional Learning Center