WVHS’s new kindness initiative blossoming into a “Rainbow in the Clouds”

HEMET — As the first day of school approached this year, West Valley High School Principal, Shannyn Cahoon, was looking for a unique way to not only welcome back its former students, but to show its incoming wave of freshman how kind, caring and supportive the school’s staff is.

To Cahoon’s surprise, what began as an icebreaker for the school’s teachers and staff to welcome students to a new school year, quickly spread to the students and has blossomed into “A Rainbow in the Clouds,” and is cascading into a movement of kindness throughout the school’s campus.

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Wanting to start the school’s new year off right, Cahoon approached her Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) Coordinator, Amber Bohac, and asked if she could provide a program that the school could build upon as the year continued, Hemet Unified School District’s Public Information Officer Alexandrea Sponheim, recently told RCNS.

Bohac decided to use a BARR activity, “A Rainbow in the Clouds.”

What began as an icebreaker to welcome staff back to a new school year, is cascading into a movement of kindness throughout the West Valley High School campus, according to school and district officials.

“The purpose was to recognize individuals who provide support and kindness to people when they are down and recognize how to support someone else when they are faced with challenges,” Sponheim explained. “Staff was then asked to make a commitment in which they would be a rainbow for someone who has clouds in their life.”

Staff members embraced the idea and each wrote his or her commitment on a sticky note. Each sticky note was used to form a rainbow and placed in front of the staff entrance to serve as a reminder of their commitment.

“Some staff members committed to greeting students with a smile every day, to be purposeful with encouragement by telling people what they are doing right, to call parents with positive comments about their child, to let students know how much they believe in them, and to be a good role model for people on campus,” explained Sponheim.

On the first day of school Cahoon and Bohac wondered how the newly implemented program would be received and if the teachers and staff members would follow through with their commitments and work together to provide a more welcoming and positive environment for both students and staff.

To their surprise and delight, “not only did staff rise to the challenge, but a funny thing began to happen,” according to Sponheim.

“Students began to observe these little acts of kindness and, in turn, performed their own acts of kindness,” Sponheim enthused. “Students began opening doors for each other, thanking individuals for handing them something and helping fellow students in need.”

In one case, staff reported observing a special education student who had been separated from their class. Seeing the student’s confusion and distress, two other students dropped what they were doing and escorted the thankful student back to their correct classroom.

Another student was seen having a hard day and was sitting outside by himself. A student who noticed their classmate was having a bad day offered to sit outside and keep him company, so he would not feel isolated from the other students.

“I believe the way you start a school year determines how the rest of the year will go,” Bohac later said. “Culture is the number one driver of a successful school and positivity changes the culture on campus. It’s contagious.”

Cahoon, Bohac, and other staff members have said they will be continuing to look for ways to encourage the continuation of this behavior throughout the school year.

According to Bohac, BARR students will be continuing the “A Rainbow in the Clouds” icebreaker throughout the first triad. She hopes the program will continue to inspire staff and students to continue these acts of kindness and be a beautiful rainbow for others experiencing clouds in their life.


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he currently writes for or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, the (now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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