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Pay It Forward Day

Mount St. Mary's student 'planting the seed' for community-wide kindness movement

Kathryn Franke - Pay it forwardBy Katie Crowe
Frederick News-Post Staff

EMMITSBURG, MD—With the negativity seen in the news today, it's all that more important that we all promote positivity on a daily basis, said Mount St. Mary's University student Kathryn Franke.

"I think we need a reminder of how far kindness really goes," Franke, 22, said in a recent phone interview.

About a month ago, Franke, a senior fine arts and communications major, began promoting the Pay it Forward campaign and the worldwide Pay it Forward Day on April 25, on Mount St. Mary's campus. The concept behind the Pay it Forward movement and day is simple: do a good deed for another, and your one act of kindness will spread to others, creating a ripple effect.

Franke began to bring awareness of the movement through social media, word of mouth and involvement in various student groups and planned a screening of the movie "Pay it Forward," starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment, on campus. The movie is based on a book by the same name by author Catherine Ryan Hyde, in which Osment's character, a seventh-grade boy, launches a charitable program based on the networking of good deeds.

According to the Pay it Forward Day website, in 2012, people from 52 countries participated in Pay it Forward Day with individuals working on proclamations in 36 states and 41 countries.

About two years ago, Franke viewed the movie and became interested in the Pay it Forward concept, she said. She was inspired, and thought Mount St. Mary's would be the perfect place to start her own Pay it Forward movement.

"Our school as four pillars that our education is based upon — faith, discovery, leadership and community," Franke explained. The Pay it Forward concept "ties into those four pillars — you have to discover all the things you can do to pay it forward, take the initiative to continue it ... have faith that other people will continue it once it's started ... and it creates a strong sense of community just because of the nature of paying it forward."

On April 17, Franke coordinated the screening of the film. Before the screening, Charley Johnson, president of the Pay it Forward Foundation, Skyped with the audience to chat about the foundation and the concept behind the movement. The mission of the foundation is to inspire people to pay it forward with acts of kindness and create the world's largest ripple effect of good deeds, according to its website.

Franke also made a YouTube video featuring Mount students to raise awareness of the movement. The video features pictures of students holding up individual Post-It notes on which they have written the good deed they promise to perform — things like "buy someone lunch," "spend the day at an animal shelter" and "tell someone they are beautiful." (see the video)

After the film screening, Franke received a lot of positive feedback from students who wanted to get involved, she said. There was a large push from many supporters to order and distribute Pay it Forward bracelets available for order on the foundation's website as well, she added.

In the past few days, since ordering and receiving the 300 or so bracelets, Franke and other Mount students have dispersed them on campus and throughout the community. "They've been given to everyone from students to staff," Franke said. "The idea is to wear them to raise awareness, or to pass them along to someone after doing a good deed."

Franke said even in the short amount of time she and others have been distributing the bracelets, she has seen countless people wearing them around campus.

On Pay it Forward Day, Franke had a whiteboard set up for the university's SPARC Festival, a campus-wide celebration of academic and artistic accomplishments of Mount students, where students could stop by, write their good deeds on a Post-It and put it up on the whiteboard. She said she has been approached by several students who are interested in forming a group on campus to promote the campaign year-round and hopes that it will continue to make a difference on campus even after she graduates.

"We're just planting the seed right now," she said. "It's already been more effective that I could imagine ... but I'm hoping it will keep growing. This being my senior year and all ... you always want to leave somewhere better than you found it," Franke said. "The Mount is already a wonderful place, but I really think this is something that can make a big difference in a community like ours."

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