Elementary School

Persevering at Sky Zone

By Molly O'Keefe

My 7-year-old daughter Katy is in 1st grade at Onondaga Road Elementary, just outside Syracuse, NY. She attends a great school with incredible teachers. She treats others well and has self-confidence. She’s full of zest, kindness, and perseverance. But she wasn’t always able to explain those parts of her personality.

This year, however, I noticed a difference in her. She became more capable of identifying — and then articulating — the good in herself and other people. I believe this shift is a result of West Genesee’s decision to partner with The Positivity Project. Every day her teacher Mrs. Madden, and every other teacher at Onondaga Road, uses 15-minutes to directly teach one of positive psychology’s 24 character strengths.

For my daughter, the impact of this seemingly small intervention has been big. Because of The Positivity Project, Katy’s friends and teachers have a shared vocabulary they can use to talk about what’s good in people. She now has the words she needs to describe how she’s feeling and what she’s going to do to be her best self. And this vocabulary travels far beyond the school walls.

On a Saturday afternoon in January, my sister and I brought our girls to Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park in Syracuse. There was a horizontal ladder over a ball pit that was challenging for my 7-year-old to cross without falling in. She would fall, get back in line and then try it again. This went on for a few minutes until she became frustrated. I told her to take a break and try a different obstacle — but she refused. She ran back over with her cousins and through the netting yelled, “Mom, I am going to PERSEVERE!  I can’t give up!” I laughed and out loud yelled back, “Okay, love the Positivity Project!”   

The small group of parents standing around watching their kids looked at me; smiled and laughed. They all knew exactly what I was talking about — even though we were from four separate Syracuse-area school districts. My reference to The Positivity Project sparked a conversation in which they explained how their children are coming home from school and sharing stories and experiences about using the different character strengths.

All parents agreed that the character strengths their kids are learning and applying to their lives are changing their young children’s language and perspective on the world. These daily lessons are something that our students are really internalizing as they use their heart and mind to better understand themselves — and how to treat others. Thank you, P2!

Molly O'Keefe
Teacher, East Hill Elementary School

Molly O'Keefe is a PE teacher at East Hill Elementary School in the West Genesee School District. She is also an Assistant Camp Director during the summer months at Lourdes Camp, a traditional, residential summer camp on Skaneateles Lake. Molly enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and anything outside including running, swimming, skiing, and playing golf.