Throughout the month of April, the Non-Traditional Student Organization (NTSO) has been spreading surprises in the form of small gifts to Maryville College students as part of their Random Acts of Kindness campaign.
President of NTSO, Melissa Kiewiet, said that the series of events was inspired by a desire to give back to the MC community that has become many non-traditional students’ “home away from home.”
“When I first came to MC, I was crying over the rigorous academics, and a random student consoled me and told me that everyone at the college cared and things would be okay,” Kiewiet said. “I want to provide this feeling of care to other students, as well. This is my way of paying her kindness forward.”
So far, club members have distributed gift cards, candy, money, bubbles and relaxation materials to surprised and appreciative students. They said that they try to position themselves in high-traffic areas during lunch, in order to reach the largest possible number of students.
Joshua Loomis said that he was the happy recipient of a cupcake from the organization.
“I enjoyed the thought of someone taking time out of their day to help make mine better. Receiving a cupcake when you’re hungry doesn’t seem like much, but even that small act makes you feel more a part of the community and connected to those around you,” Loomis said. “Small acts of kindness have the power to make you smile. I know I smiled.”
Yurim Lee also received a cupcake that day on her way to class in Thaw Hall. Lee said that this random act inspired her to find out more about the organization behind the generous gesture, and sought out NTSO.
Kiewiet said that her favorite act so far has been “hearing the squeals of delight” when students found money in the small items that NTSO members distributed during lunch in Pearsons. Kiewiet said that it is the organization’s hope that these small acts will encourage other students to pay it forward.
“We can all benefit from the kindness of others,” Kiewiet said. “To receive kindness, you must first give it.”
According to Kiewiet, the Random Acts of Kindness campaign has generated a positive response. Kiewiet said that NTSO hopes to continue their activities for a month each semester.
NTSO is a new organization on campus that caters to the unique needs of students who are not of the traditional college age. They not only provide support for non-traditional students, and strive to bring awareness to the unique issues and challenges these students face that those attending MC straight out of high school are unlikely to realize.
With 16 current members, the group said that it hopes to grow in numbers as more students learn about it.
Current initiatives other than Random Acts of Kindness include compiling a database of babysitters for students who have children.