By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Natasha Gangal, Joanna Butcher, Biancka Dela Cruz
Encouraging words from one student to another on Facebook are common among Milpitas High School students these days.
Cyberbullying is out and cyber compliments are in at the school near San Jose, thanks to a few student leaders using social media to create a positive environment. Posts on the Milpitas High Compliments Page, www.facebook.com/MilpitasHighCompliments, are prompting smiles and feelings of acceptance across campus, say students and staff.
The friendly Facebook page happened after heartfelt discussions in Joanna Butcher’s leadership class about ways that students could brighten the days of classmates — and also counteract cyberbullying, says the Milpitas Teachers Association member. Her students joined a nationwide trend that, according to NBC News, began in Canada in 2012 as a way to spread happiness across campus. Since then, many schools, including Burlingame High School, have created “compliments” pages on Facebook.
Milpitas leadership students tried other means of improving the school climate, but nothing captured students’ attention like Milpitas High Compliments, which has accumulated nearly 500 followers.
“When it came to figuring out ways to recognize the positive, my students knew the vast majority of students are on the phone and using social media,” says Butcher. “Potentially, it has the opportunity to truly impact students who might otherwise go unnoticed. We felt this would be one way for students to feel valuable and welcome. And it’s a way to reach all 3,000 students without leaving anyone out.”
The postings are anonymous, because students are more willing to be complimentary if they don’t have to reveal their identities. Posts must be positive and cannot include profanity. Sarcastic or inappropriate posts are promptly removed. Those who post complimentary messages are encouraged to “tag” their friends.
The page is getting attention not only at Milpitas High School, but in local media and throughout the community. One reader posted a response to an online article that ran in the Milpitas Patch expressing hope that compliments pages could go nationwide as a countermeasure to cyberbullying.
Students who created the page believe they are making a difference. “We wanted to increase a sense of pride and belonging at this school,” relates Natasha Gangal, a sophomore and the school’s rally commissioner. “We think we have done that.”
Biancka Dela Cruz, last year’s school rally commissioner, finds more joy in posting a compliment than receiving one, even though she and Gangal have gotten online “kudos” for creating a forum where students can say nice things.
“I love giving back to the school and knowing I made someone else’s day,” she says.
Social studies teacher and MTA member Frank Castro was pleasantly surprised to receive “props” (approval) on the page for being a “super-cool” teacher and hosting a pizza party.
“Reading that brought a big smile to my face,” he says. “It was a really nice thing to do.”