Acts of Kindness Earn Hope Students $1,000 grants

Hope junior Blanca Colato, English teacher Amanda Vetelino, senior Justin Crespo, and Norm Kelly, founder of the Metta Students Foundation.

Hope junior Blanca Colato, English teacher Amanda Vetelino, senior Justin Crespo, and Norm Kelly, founder of the Metta Students Foundation.

Random acts of kindness happen every day. Someone does something nice or unexpected to make someone’s day and doesn’t expect anything in return.

Thanks to software entrepreneur Norm Kelly, random acts of kindness by high school students do not go unnoticed.

Kelly, a Providence native and co-founder of Software Quality Associates in Providence, was searching for a way to give back to the community in gratitude for the success of his company. He created the Metta Students Foundation in 2012 after hearing of one high school student’s random act of simple kindness toward another. He and his partners set aside $25,000 a year to celebrate random acts of kindness or “metta” by high school students across the state of Rhode Island. Students can be nominated by their teachers, peers or community members, and those who truly demonstrate the meaning of “metta” are awarded a grant of $1,000.

The word “metta” originates in the Pali language, found in the earliest Buddhist texts, and means benevolence, friendliness, goodwill and kindness.

Amanda Vetelino, an English teacher at Hope High School nominated two of her students who were named the November and December winners  of Metta grants. Senior Justin Crespo and junior Blanca Collado were recognized at a school assembly on December 9, where they each received a $1,000 check from Kelly.

In early October, Crespo and Colato participated in the JROTC Iron Man and Iron Woman competitions. They won their respective divisions and decided to give their trophies to two special needs students who they recognized from their school and also competed in the event.

“When I heard about this inspiring display of kindness, I nominated them for the Metta Award because I felt their selfless act of charity and kindness truly illustrates what metta is and stands for,” said Vetelino. “They each gave up something they worked hard for just to put a smile on the face of another and that is truly a mark of a remarkable individual.”

Crespo said he saw a special needs student pushing herself hard during the JROTC triathlon, which required sit-ups, pushups and pull-ups, and came up with the idea to give his trophy to her. Colato decided to join him and together they presented the trophies to the students in their classrooms.

They were really happy and so excited,” said Crespo.

“It made me feel awesome,” added Colato. “The whole class was cheering when we left the room and we could hear them down the hallway.”

“I thought about the parents of those students and what it must have been like for them to have their kids come home with those trophies,” said Kelly before the ceremony. “You never know what a difference you can make in someone’s life. It’s not necessarily the best athlete or the smartest kid – anyone can do it.

“Nothing can compare to making someone smile like that,” Kelly told the assembled students. “You heard their story – if you are having an awesome day, pass it onto someone else and make their day. If you are a little kinder than everyone else, maybe your generation will have a better world.”

The Metta Foundation wants to hear about good deeds teens are doing that are often overlooked, especially inspiring stories about high school students who have stepped outside of themselves, who demonstrate courage and compassion and inspire others. The Metta Foundation awards a $1,000 grant each month to a Rhode Island high school student who performs an inspiring and compassionate act.

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