A "random acts of kindness" challenge encourages students to go out of their way to be kind, but what they don't realize is the program is curbing bullying as well.
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. - Most kids are either back in school or will start next week, and unfortunately, bullying is something many of them will deal with.
However, there's a program meant to stop bullying through random acts of kindness and kids don't know it.
Standing in front of about 100 fourth and fifth graders at Cottage Hill Elementary School in Grass Valley, Brian Williams told his life story and why he believes kindness needs to be spread.
Through a series of stories and jokes meant to engage the young audience, Williams was able to convey the message that kindness is the best defense against bullying without saying it directly.
"With the bullying epidemic on the rise, we wanted to create a program that would go into schools and create this kindness explosion, this infectious thing," Williams said. "And what you'll notice is you'll see a drop in bully-related incidents without ever mentioning the word."
The program, called ThinkKindness, challenges students to do as many acts of random kindness as possible, and log them in a journal.
"Your school is challenged to do 5,000 acts of kindness in just 15 days," Williams told the kids.
When asked if they were up for it, their screams of "Yeah!" bounced off the cafeteria walls.
Williams and the ThinkKindness team are based in Reno and started the program in 2009. In 2013, they visited 57 schools and challenged 60,000 kids.
He said of the schools they've visited, many see at least a 32 percent decline in bullying incidents.
"The bullies actually appreciate (the kindness) and stop being a bully," fifth grader Freedom Brown said.
"If you're popular and you're mean, that's not cool," Ana Hamilton added. "Being popular isn't everything, but I want to be popular for being nice. I don't want to be popular because of my looks or my attitude. I want to be kind."
Another bonus of the program is that while the message starts at school, kids take the kindness mentality home to mom and dad, grandma, grandpa and others.
"It's really easy to get into our own daily routine, every teacher, student or parent," said Williams. "With as much negativity that's going on around the world, it's hard to say, 'How can I change the world when there's so much to change?' Sometimes it's the simplest deeds that truly make the biggest (impact.)"
Williams was not invited to Cottage Hill because of a bullying problem, but rather to instill good values early on, and maybe tackle bullying outside of school.
"When children are focused, they can really astonish you with what they can accomplish," he said.
Be sure to watch the video report to see parts of Williams' presentation and students' enthusiasm to take the ThinkKindness Challenge.