News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 30, 2013

NBC visits Lost Creek Elementary to film segment for nightly news

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Lost Creek Elementary School will soon gain national attention after an NBC network news crew documented efforts of students participating in a SPPRAK initiative.

SPPRAK — Special People Performing Random Acts of Kindness — started in 2009, and this year the program is in all 28 elementary schools in Vigo County.

“I saw an article on SPPRAK in the Christian Science Monitor and thought it would be a really nice story to talk about with all the nice things the kids are doing and getting recognized for it,” said Samira Puskar, a producer for NBC’s Midwest bureau.

“It will make for a good closer,” on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Puskar said Monday.

The newspaper in March published a SPPRAK article written by Tribune-Star reporter Arthur Foulkes, which was distributed by the Associated Press.

As students walked past a large banner, school principal Marsha Jones referenced the attached colorful stickers where students wrote about kind deeds, some as innocent as getting help to tie shoestrings.

“I think the beauty of this program is that it is so simple,” Jones said. “Students love to acknowledge one another. They will stop and write things on the way to lunch, or even once they are dismissed, rather than go out to the playground immediately, they will stop. They will take their time from play to write” on the sticky notes, the principal said.

Each day, Jones takes five to six notes from the banner to read to students during morning announcements. “The teachers say the students love it — both sets of students, the one who wrote the note and the person it was about,” Jones said.

“It is kind of that pay-it-forward thing, [in which] one good deed begets another,” Jones said.

Kevin Tibbles, an NBC correspondent based in Chicago and a regular contributor to NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, talked to students (Keira Beasley, Hunter Hill, Martin Waldbieser and Shane Zoleske), faculty and community leaders at the school.

“I love doing stories about kids. I don’t care where the kids are or in what part of the world,” Tibbles said. “Kids are so innocent and so straightforward and full of life. I am very grateful to be able to come to Terre Haute and do a positive story about kids.

“The other part is there is so much out there about the bad things and the pitfalls that kids fall into, and to be able to do a story like this, about being able to make a difference, for Nightly News is very heart-warming. I have kids of my own, so I think this is great,” Tibbles said of the SPPRAK program.

“Kids doing a good thing, people like to hear that and why not promote it? I know a few adults who could benefit from a program like this and quite a few in Congress perhaps,” Tibbles said.

The notes from students included writings such as “Lillie helped me spell a name,” or “Reggen gave me one of his sissors because mine was broke.” There’s also a note from staff — “Deputy Schoffstall bought the Lost Creek staff donuts.”

Robin Heng, a co-founder of the nonprofit SPPRAK, said the school program is funded from $1,500 in grants — $1,000 from Duke Energy and $500 Indiana American Water Co.

Heng said the nonprofit group is working to get a packet printed so the program can be expanded into nearby counties such as Clay and Vermillion.

“We saw the need. There is a scary culture in the schools with a lot of things going on with things you can’t do. There is a whole list of things you can’t do, so this is something they can do and gives the kids an empowerment to help each other out,” said Susan Short, another SPPRAK co-founder.

“It feels good when people are nice to you and feels good when you get to be nice to other people,” Short said.

Heng said NBC’s national broadcast will help spread the idea of doing a random act of kindness.

Nightly News producer Puskar said Monday she is not yet sure of the run date for the SPPRAK program, but said it is expected to run before Vigo schools let out for the summer.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.