By Lisa Dayley Smith
For the Journal
POCATELLO â Members of Hawthorne Middle Schoolâs Virtues Club paid it forward in May by handing out roses and also paying for residentsâ purchases at Shopko.
It was all done to give youth a lesson in paying it forward. Virtues Club leader Jenifer Fullmer showed her club members how to by being the first to do so.Â
âA little elderly lady walked in and I said âHi, maâam, Iâd like to give you a flower to make you smile.â I got the biggest hug,â she said.
From there, Fullmerâs students took over.
âWe had women in tears. These women soaked it in and loved it,â she said. âOne of the elderly ladies didnât say anything but instead put her head on the counter and started crying. The employee started crying.â
The youth told shoppers it was the Virtues Club mission to pay for shoppers purchases.
They also explained it was the clubâs mission to pay it forward. The club paid for everything from cookies to toys.
âShoppers would say âyouâre kiddingâ,â Fullmer recalled. âWe had a lot of shocked faces. We had fun watching their faces. I get goosebumps every time I talk about it.â
The group helped a woman purchase birthday gifts for her daughter. That, in turn, allowed the woman to buy some shoes for her son.
âThe kids said âwow, we saved her enough money so she could turn around and get the things he really needed,ââ Fullmer said.
One customer had a hard time containing her joy.
âShe jumped up and down and started screaming. She said âAre you serious?â She had to hug all 23 of my students. It was kind of cute,â Fullmer said.
The students also helped a first responder who is usually the one doing the helping.
âWe noted a firefighter and made a purchase for him for his elderly mother,â Fullmer said. âHe thought it was the coolest thing ever.â
The Virtues Club held a raffle where they earned $300 to pay for the purchases. ShopKo later chipped in $40 while Flowers by LD provided the roses.
Fullmer organized the club during the third trimester of the school year after students voiced concerns over bullying and the tragedies it caused.
Instead of giving the club a title containing the word âbullying,â Fullmer and her young charges opted for the more optimistic Virtues Club.
âI said âLetâs focus on a title (that tells) us what we should do,ââ she said.
Every week, Fullmer asked her club members to do something nice for someone. They checked in with her each morning to detail their progress. The youth also created a large bulletin board highlighting students of the week.
âWe highlighted as many as we could. It was so cool,â she said.
The youth also reported back on some of the things theyâve done to spread the cheer.
âTheyâll tell me they gave one person a hug or high-fived four kids they didnât know, âFullmer said. âThey left a sticky note on a teacherâs desk telling them theyâre awesome. They have so much fun. Itâs like a treasure hunt. The little things like high-fiving a shy sixth grade boy â he lit up the rest of the day and they got to see that. They got to see this big one with this field trip.âÂ
Fullmer plans to continue the club next year, but itâs her hope that fellow Gate City schools will create their own versions of the Virtues Club.
âI want to rally the troops and have one club in each school,â Fullmer said. âI really think it will make a big difference.â
It definitely made a difference at Hawthorne.
âSeveral teachers have made tons of comments. Theyâll say âWow, Jenifer, this really cool.â The principal gave us several compliments,â she said.
Fullmer has worn many hats in the year since sheâs worked at Hawthorne from serving as a paraprofessional to helping in study hall. Married to Matthew Fullmer, the couple has three children Amber, 19; Mindy, 15, and Mason, 10.
On the last day of school, the Virtues Club members looked through the many pictures showing delighted ShopKo shoppers.
âTheyâre saying âwow, this is the coolest thing ever.â I just want these kidsâ hearts touched. Thatâs the biggest thing,â Fullmer said.Â